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School board discusses legislative session, vaccines in district update

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Jason Golden reopening announcement (copy)

Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden gives an announcement during the summer of 2020.

During the Williamson County Schools Board of Education’s first work session of the year on Thursday, Superintendent Jason Golden gave the board a rather comprehensive update on where the district is at, including discussion about the Tennessee General Assembly’s special session, vaccines and suicide prevention.

Golden learned from a meeting with Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn about some expected legislation during the special legislative session that Gov. Bill Lee called for Jan. 19 pertaining specifically to education. The legislative bodies are expected to address student learning loss and literacy, perhaps implementing a state-funded, six-week summer camp for students.

“It’s going to be widely available, but there will be some requirements for students who might not have passed their classes to take these summer programs as a prerequisite to being advanced to the next grade rather than being held and repeat their current grade,” Golden said. “My interpretation is it’s a pretty aggressive approach to get those students who have had some learning loss on campus even during this summer.”

Read the summary of the bill here.

Golden said the district’s fall screeners show WCS K–8 students experienced less than 10% learning loss in English/language arts and math during the spring closures and summer of 2020. He added that winter screeners are underway, which will share more information about student learning during the fall semester.

Further, the district will take state assessments this semester, but proposed legislation would allow local school boards to choose the percentage that TCAP tests count on students' final grades, between zero and 25%.

Additionally, Golden said money may be funneled into the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) for teacher raises.

In terms of the COVID-19 vaccine, Golden said as of Wednesday, the county has administered about 3,000 doses. Last month, about 2,300 WCS staff members expressed their interest in the vaccine, and more have expressed interest since. The district has applied to be a site of vaccine administration for its staff.

“What we’re hoping is that this should decrease the spread of the virus once we get a substantial number of our staff members with a vaccine, and we expect it to improve staffing,” Golden said. “But the real benefit that we’re looking forward to is health, to give that extra health protection to our teachers and our staff.”

While many schools have switched to remote learning throughout the year due to COVID-19 outbreaks among the student body, some school closures, particularly in the younger grades, have been due to limited staffing, as teachers and other staff members were impacted by the virus.

The most recent COVID-19 data for the district was reported as of Monday, Jan. 11, showing 151 students and 33 staff members were in isolation with a confirmed positive case and 246 students and 60 staff members were in quarantine due to exposure. No schools are in remote learning. The district updates this data weekly on Tuesdays.

Golden also mentioned suicide prevention has been a particular focus for the district this year, looking into question-refer-persuade (QPR) training as well as implementing a suicide protocol and self-harm protocol for both online and on-campus students.

Finally, Golden said district staff members have a meeting next week with a diversity, equity and inclusion company to discuss possibly hiring its services for the district. Previously, the district looked into contracting with Derek Young Culture Strategies but decided the district would need more resources than the firm could provide.

For more information about Williamson County Schools, visit WCS.edu.

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