Supt report Birdsong Golden

Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden took to YouTube Tuesday to essentially reinforce the district’s decision to recommend — but not require — that students and teachers wear masks when the 2021-22 school year begins Friday.

In a special edition of the Superintendent’s Report presented on the WCS YouTube channel, Golden discussed a revised health and wellness guidelinesthat included topics such as Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, mitigation strategies and quarantines.

At the core of the controversy that has come during the COVID-19 pandemic is whether or not to require face coverings be worn inside school buildings, and Golden reiterated what was in the original health and wellness guidelines released a couple of weeks ago — that masks be encouraged but not mandated.

“I know there’s a lot of fear out there, and we’ve felt it too,” Golden said in the half-hour video alongside Communications Director Carol Birdsong. “I want everybody to know we have a lot of good professionals working on this, that this is a team effort. We are recommending masks, and I know some people wish we would require it.” 

Golden said the decision was reached based on a number of factors — the CDC guidelines’ recommendation that local conditions be considered, relatively high vaccination rates in Williamson County, and the number of adults versus the number of children with positive cases.

“[That] leads us to conclude that the most appropriate place to start is to recommend masks,” Golden said. “We don’t know how many people will choose to wear a mask but we want those who do choose it to know we’re going to honor that, we’re going to encourage it. There will be nervous times this year. It will continue to be a nervous time for many families.”

Golden pointed out that if WCS determines a mask mandate becomes necessary, that will need to be approved by the Williamson County Board of Education. He doesn’t have the authority to make that decision.

“Given everything we know, I’m not recommending [a mandate] at this time,” he said. “But again, we’re going to watch this on a daily basis and keep an eye on where the progress goes with all those factors.”

Board members and Golden received a letter last weekend from a group of pulmonary and critical care physicians who practice at Williamson Medical Center, asking that the district reconsider its protocol and make masks among all students, teachers and others inside the school buildings a requirement.

In the letter, Drs. Tufik Assad, Laura Hunt, Aaron Milstone and Devin Shermanstated, “We strongly request that WCS reassesses its current COVID-19 mitigation policies, and quickly enact recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, including mandatory masking while indoors.”

The district’s Facebook page was inundated with comments on both sides of the issue when the Superintendent’s Report was posted Tuesday evening. Some 325 comments appeared by midday Wednesday.

A sampling of comments: 

  • Sarah Smith — If WCS does not issue a mask mandate, I will pull my child out at the last minute! She deserves much better and I would encourage all parents to take a stand and pull your children out until the school board takes proper safety measures to protect everyone. Health and well being is more important right now.
  • Todd Lyda — When a surgeon wears a mask, it’s to protect the patient not themselves. Masks are not a personal choice, they are socially responsible to ensure the safety of others. This should be obvious by now.
  • Erica Kelley — So thankful that our rights as parents are being honored. If you would like to mask your child then you have that parental right. If don’t want your child masked you have that parental right. That is called freedom and liberty and the people who know what’s best for children are their parents! Thank goodness common sense finally prevailing for our children when there is no evidence they are at risk or that masks prevent anything.
  • Melanie Payne — So glad there’s no pushing masks this year! My kids can enjoy some sort of normalcy and see their friends faces! Now if they’d just let them sit together so everyone can socialize it’d be even better!

Like WCS, the Franklin Special School District also gets the 2021-22 school year started with a half-day Friday. Click here to access the FSSD health guidelines.