School bus front

Despite the rise in cases of the coronavirus over the past few weeks, students, teachers and staff from both school districts in Williamson County will return for the spring semester under the same protocols as when they left for winter break in December.

The wearing of masks is encouraged, but not required, in Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District. Remote learning is a possibility but not likely. And for those who are not feeling well, stay home.

"We are pleading with our families and staff to please stay home if they feel sick," WCS Executive Director of Health and Wellness Gary Anderson said through InFocus. "We know this is one of the best mitigation strategies we can follow. Simply put, if you do not feel well, do not come to school."

The spike in cases is primarily a result of the highly contagious Omicron variant that has become the dominant strain in the United States. Numbers across the county had begun to lessen back in the fall, leading both districts to drop mask mandates in November.

However, in accordance with the Tennessee Department of Health’s new recommendations, WCS and the FSSD have updated illness guidelines that can be found on the COVID-19 pages of their websites.

“Custodial, transportation and school staff will continue to be diligent in routine cleaning,” reads a statement from an email sent to FSSD families Tuesday afternoon. “School staff will continue to monitor students and staff for signs and symptoms of illness and make referrals to the school nurse for assessment. Should our school/community experience a significant rise in COVID-related illness, we have plans in place for remote learning to occur as needed by class, grade or school.”

WCS has also addressed the topic of remote learning and how feasible it might or might not be to transition to a form of online classrooms in some cases.

“During the Fall of 2021, the State mandated that districts must apply to the State Commissioner of Education and receive approval for any classroom or school to transition to remote learning,” the district says through InFocus. “To receive a waiver, the Tennessee Department of Education states that a school district must ‘demonstrate a significant impact of COVID-19 quarantine or isolation on school operations, impacting students, teachers, and/or staff.’ The waiver would only be valid for seven calendar days, and all extra-curricular activities would be canceled if a school was approved to transition to remote.”

As far as closing schools for inclement weather, that could come as early as the second day of school. Tuesday afternoon’s forecast from the National Weather Service called for snow throughout the day Thursday, and both districts have systems in place to alert families if schools do close — from emails, text messages, social media and other methods.

"We try to make decisions as early as we can, but sometimes that isn't an option," WCS Superintendent Jason Golden said. "If the decision to close school is made overnight, parents and staff can expect a phone call early in the morning. We will begin calling homes as early as 5 a.m."

All schools from WCS and the FSSD will be closed on inclement weather days, and no remote learning will be offered.