Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden announced Thursday afternoon that schools will open Aug. 7 with kids through second grade going to school on campus and students in third and above starting the semester online.
This protocol is what is known as the medium spread risk of the coronavirus, meaning the youngest students will attend classes on campus and older ones will learn remotely for at least the first two weeks of the school year.
The number of active cases has risen in Williamson County over the past several weeks, moving WCS from a low spread risk to a medium in the metrics established by the Williamson County Health Department based on percentage of active cases to the county’s population. In the last few days, however, the numbers have improved somewhat.
“We decided the wisest course for our students, faculty and staff is to apply our medium protocol for reopening plan,” Golden said during a press conference at the WCS Professional Development center. “For at least the first two weeks of school we will be applying that medium metric program.”
Starting on campus will be early childhood, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first through second grades. Students, faculty and staff will be required to wear masks.
“This plan allows our youngest learners to be on campus with improved social distancing,” Golden said, “something that cannot be achieved when all grades are on campus.”
Grades three through 12 will meet virtually to get the year started. Teachers will either be leading classes from their individual classrooms or from their homes, depending on circumstances.
“Many of our teachers, because of the social distancing requirements, will have the ability to be in a particular school building working in their classroom and using our WiFi as they teach students remotely,” Golden said. “One of the critical pieces to this medium protocol is increasing social distancing. Because we know when everyone is on campus, there is no way to be socially distant. Some teachers will be working from home, and some will be working in a building as they teach students over the course of that day.”
A number of families — around 20% of them — have expressed interest in the WCS Online program, and they have until Sunday at 5 p.m. to decide whether to move forward with the program.
“This is a critical deadline, because the principals’ and teachers’ work in staffing this program is a heavy lift that will take two weeks we have before school starts," Golden said.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson, who had enacted a mask-wearing mandate across the county earlier this month, was also on hand at the press conference.
“I know that it’s a difficult choice for Superintendent Golden to have to make here today, with people wanting those schools to start in the school buildings from day one,” Anderson said. “I’m encouraged by our numbers and hopefully they’ll be revisiting that over the next few weeks.”
Golden also sounded a note of optimism in light of the seriousness of the virus.
“I know this year will be a big challenge,” he said. “We’re in a pandemic. However, I’m optimistic about this school year. Because of the work our county continues to do, I’m also optimist that if we continue to work together, we will continue to see these trends over the next few weeks change that will allow our students, faculty and staff to be on campus sooner rather than later.”
Full press conference can be viewed on the district's YouTube channel.