With classes set to begin Friday to open the 2020-21 school year for Williamson County Schools, a group of nearly 75 parents and students held a rally Tuesday to show opposition to a reopening plan that was announced a couple of weeks ago by WCS Superintendent Jason Golden.
The Williamson County Board of Education had voted to approve the district’s framework for opening in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this summer. After it underwent tweaks on the way to becoming final, Golden presented the plan in a news conference July 23. Under the plan, students K-2 will go to school on campus and those in third grade and above will spend at least the first two weeks learning virtually.
Those who showed up Tuesday to protest on the grounds at the Williamson County Administrative Complex on West Main Street in Franklin don’t like the plan. Organizers of the grassroots coalition, which stemmed from a WCS parents group on Facebook, said parents should have had more input on what the return to school would look like. In essence, they want all students back on campuses.
“We deserve a choice,” said Kelly Jackson, one of the group’s organizers and lead speaker at the rally. “I know parents who have had to walk away from their jobs so they can facilitate the learning for their kids. That is not a position they should be put in, especially now that we have guidelines put in place by [Gov. Bill Lee] that say we can all return to school safely.
“I think the superintendent owes us an explanation that is actually substantive, not just a bunch of gobbledygook that he tries to pass off as an explanation. We want the board to reconsider the framework that he has put in place. We want the new state guidelines to replace that framework.”
Jackson was referring to the reopening plan released last week by Gov. Lee and his health and education commissioners, one that emphasizes in-person learning. In that plan, Lee argued that the benefits of reopening in school buildings and classrooms outweigh the potential negative consequences.
In addition to several parents speaking out, the rally also included input from a few students. Among those was Jack Bratten, a senior at Nolensville High School who spoke to the importance of being part of a school environment.
“I don’t feel like I’m being represented,” he said. “I’m a student, and I don’t feel like my voice is being heard. The board is telling us what to do, when to do it. My parents are hardworking Americans. They pay the board salaries and Jason Golden’s salary. We should get a choice.”
When reached later after the rally, Golden released a statement explaining his position.
“We understand these are challenging and difficult times for everyone,” he said. “We recognize that opinions vary, and we remain hopeful that students who will be starting the year learning remotely will be able to return to campus soon. We encourage our community to continue to follow [Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson’s] call for wearing masks and social distancing.”