A Williamson County teacher has alleged that since late September, teachers, students and faculty that have knowingly been exposed to COVID-19 have not been made to quarantine for sometimes up to a week.
That teacher has asked to remain anonymous out of fear for their job.
The teacher explained that up until Sept. 23, a principal would be allowed to notify school staff members and students' families after having confirmed they may have been exposed to COVID-19, kicking off the quarantine process.
"So what's happening is, say we have a teacher who comes down positive for COVID-19 at our school, and they were [in close proximity] with three other teachers," the teacher said. "The teacher knows this, the principal knows this — they [then] inform the principal [and] go through the correct chains. It used to be that the principal could initiate a quarantine."
On Sept. 23, however, the county health department took over control of quarantine communications for the school district. Williamson County Schools (WCS) Communications Director Carol Birdsong said that the health department was unable handle quarantine communications before due to staffing issues.
Communications Coordinator for Williamson County Schools (WCS) Lydia Glynn confirmed that school staff were contacting families before the health department took control of quarantine communications.
"So in the beginning, once the health department said 'OK, these folks need to quarantine,' we were calling our families," Glynn said. "Now, the health department has taken that role over."
The anonymous Williamson County teacher said that after the switch, teachers who have been confirmed to have been exposed to COVID-19 are returning to the classrooms for up to 10 days before quarantining.
"[Teachers who] have been exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus... they are turning up at school — we're all looking at each other shrugging our shoulders," the teacher said. "So we're not quarantining, we're still walking around exposing everybody else."
Shelley Walker, a spokesperson for the health department, responded via email to the allegation that teachers are waiting days on end for instructions to quarantine.
"The health department strives to notify contacts as quickly as possible," Walker wrote.
"It is not unusual for there to be several attempts before an individual is successfully contacted. School districts assist health departments by helping to identify close contacts within the schools and asking those individuals to remain at home until contacted by the health department."
The teacher also explained why many teachers who were aware they had been exposed to the virus didn't simply initiate their own self-quarantine.
"If they don't show up, that's an absence, they're going to get penalized," the teacher said. "So they have to turn up, even though morally and ethically they know they are potentially spreading the virus."
The teacher said that until the health department can issue quarantines in a timely manner, they would like to see quarantine communications returned to the authority of the schools.
"If the health department was going to be on it, then sure, go for it," the teacher said. "But if the health department is going to be so overwhelmed that they can't make those calls for days and days, then they need to turn that decision back over to the individual schools, because right now? Our schools should be shut down.
"I can't live with myself if I'm not saying something. We all know this is going on, and no one says anything out of fear for losing their jobs. God forbid, somebody dies because of it, and we knew it and didn't say anything? That's what's starting to eat at a lot of the staff — our conscious is starting to override our desire for a paycheck."