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WCS releases health and wellness guidelines for return to school

Face masks encouraged, not required

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0629 Penny Schwinn visits WCS summer learning camps 8 WCS teacher

A WCS teacher helps students practice math at a summer learning camp in Allendale Elementary School.

Williamson County Schools released its health and wellness guidelines for the 2021-22 school year this week, which do not include a face mask requirement or any COVID-related seating limitations for sports or recreational events.

The guidelines state that “adjustments are being made based on the current status of the COVID-19 virus and other communicable diseases in Williamson County, knowledge gained over the past year, and the percentage of individuals who have been eligible to receive and who have received vaccinations in Williamson County.”

Masks encouraged, not required

School starts back up for WCS with a half day on Friday, Aug. 6. While the future of the pandemic continues to be unpredictable with variants spreading throughout the country and the possible need for COVID-19 booster shots, the district has committed to not requiring masks on campus or at school-sponsored events upon the return to school.

“Masks are not required but are encouraged for students, staff, and visitors who would prefer to use one,” the new guidelines read. “Students under the age of 12 are advised to wear a mask or consult with their health care provider due to their ineligibility to be vaccinated for COVID.”

In an email to WCS families on Wednesday, the district noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended masks for everyone in schools above the age of 2, regardless of their vaccination status, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended masks indoors for those who are 2 and older and are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, both entities recognize that local conditions and mitigation strategies may call for different guidelines.

In Williamson County, over 54% of the population has at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and about 50% is fully vaccinated. Additionally, as of July 20, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 292 active COVID-19 cases in the county. While this is significantly lower than the height of the pandemic earlier in the year, which reached above 2,500 active cases, it is creeping back up from the 2021 low of 20 active cases on June 21.

The district is also continuing to encourage frequent handwashing and asks students to stay home from school if they are sick. For COVID-19 and other illnesses, WCS will follow its board policy for communicable diseases (policy 6.403), which holds that schools may send sick children home until they have a doctor’s note stating they are no longer contagious.

Contact tracing, quarantine under health department authority

While board policy states that students are not to attend school or school activities while sick, official quarantines and contact tracing is the responsibility of the Williamson County Health Department.

The guidelines further note that those who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic will not need to quarantine even if determined to have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

Individuals 12 and older are currently eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Williamson County. More information about local vaccine distribution efforts can be found at www.WilliamsonReady.org/341/Health-Department-Vaccine-Distribution.

No COVID seating limits at events

While sporting events will be subject to TSSAA rules, the guidelines state that the “seating capacity in stadiums, gymnasiums, auditoriums, and classrooms will be based on the facilities’ original design capacities” and that “spectator attendance and class size will not be reduced.”

Will the guidelines change?

The district shared that the guidelines are subject to change throughout the year as staff “monitor[s] the impact of COVID-19 in our community,” but no metrics or thresholds were included to denote what would trigger a change.

To read the complete guidelines, visit www.WCS.edu/domain/1298.

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