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While Williamson County Schools has been having ongoing discussions about COVID-19 with the Williamson County Health Department throughout the semester, the talk may take a more urgent turn when officials from each group meet Tuesday.

The number of active cases of the coronavirus in the county reached 1,723 Monday, the highest number since the pandemic began last March. It also put Williamson in the medium risk of spread and edged ever closer to the level of high risk at 1% of the county’s population. WCS has been using the metric since the school year began in August, and for most of the time the risk level has been in the low range.

That changed Monday, however, and that triggers a deeper conversation on where the district goes next, meaning schools could possibly turn to remote learning for a longer period of time than what some of the schools have experienced intermittently this semester.

Jason Golden headshot

Jason Golden

“We are talking [Tuesday with the health department] about the impact on the county and the impact on schools, especially given this last week and a half to two weeks where the numbers have gone up,” WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said Monday night at the Williamson County Board of Education meeting. “We’re having a conversation about what this means for us after the holidays. We’re very concerned about that.”

Golden said about half of the district’s high schools and around half of the middle schools are currently in remote learning*, and grade levels from other schools have had to leave campus. But with Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas on its heels, there’s an increased likelihood of spread that could carry well into the new year and the spring semester.

“There is a point where we might have to go fully remote,” Golden said.

“I think it’s very important for everyone to know that we’re still exploring possibilities for where we go for the rest of this year. We still don’t know what the future holds. 

“We’ve had moments of hope where the numbers go down and moments of angst when the numbers go up. We’re at a time when the numbers are going up. We’ve talked about what if the virus increases to the extent that we have to be remote for long periods of time. What happens if next semester goes long. We’re continuing to brainstorm over that.”

Board approves new pay for subs, next year’s calendar

Among other items on the agenda, board members also approved a new pay rate for substitute teachers and the adoption of the calendar for the 2021-22 school year.

Golden and Vickie Hall, assistant superintendent for Human Resources, proposed a pay rate of $100 a day for uncertified subs and $120 for teachers who are actively certified. That’s an increase from as low as $70 a day for uncertified to $90 for certified teachers. The proposal also includes a bonus of a day’s pay for every 10 days a substitute works, as well as WCS waiving the $40 training fee that currently new substitute hires must pay.

As for the calendar, the biggest difference in the one for next year compared to previous years is students will get a full week for fall break, Oct. 11-15. Teachers will get off Wednesday-Friday of the week.

Other key dates are Aug. 6 as first day of school, Nov. 22-26 for Thanksgiving break, Dec. 20-Jan. 4 for winter break, and March 14-18 for spring break. Last day of school is May 25.

Click here to view the whole school board meeting from Monday night.

* Remote learning

As of Tuesday morning, the list of WCS high schools currently engaged in remote learning consists of Franklin, Ravenwood, Summitt, Independence and Page. Middle schools off campus are Fairview, Brentwood, Mill Creek, Legacy, Sunset and Spring Station. Chapman's Retreat Elementary is also on remote.

Several other elementary schools have particular grades off campus.

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