All three Trousdale County schools will remain on the hybrid learning model until the Christmas break, members of the School Board decided last week.
The board voted unanimously to rescind a planned three-week trial run of five-day-per-week, in-person classes at Trousdale Elementary that was scheduled to begin on Nov. 30.
Board members had approved plans for the trial run at their October meeting but noted at the time they would revisit those plans in November. Rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Trousdale County and the inability to maintain social distancing were cited in the vote to rescind.
The School Board is scheduled to make a decision on the spring semester at their Dec. 17 meeting.
“In my mind, I’ve been, ‘We can go to school five days a week and wear masks,’ and I’m good with that,” said board member Jason Sullivan. “Then we get the CDC’s guidelines, and masks or no mask when they all go back in the classroom together they can’t social distance.
“I was under the impression that if I wore my mask and I got sick, you were not going to have to quarantine… If you’re going to have to quarantine everybody, mask or no mask, I don’t see a way to do it and it work.”
Board Chairman Johnny Kerr echoed those sentiments, saying, “Had they been able to tell us that masks made of certain materials would have protected everything… The main thing they’ve always preached has been social distancing. If we go back to school full time, our rooms just aren’t big enough to allow for social distancing.”
Both Sumner and Smith County have announced returns to hybrid schedules in recent weeks because of rising numbers in their respective counties.
Coordinated School Health supervisor Kathy Atwood told board members that thus far, 467 students and 67 staff had been sent home during the fall semester for possible COVID exposure. Only 20 students and 13 staff have actually tested positive during that period.
As of Thursday, there were 70 students and five staff members under quarantine because of potential exposure.
Parents who spoke to the board seemed amenable to canceling the trial run.
“As far as the five days, I think it’s a bad idea right now… More people are going to be exposed and not know it,” said April Huntsman.
“You chose to consider the safety, health and education of our school system. I’m for the hybrid because it’s working and I think we will end up being virtual,” added Janet Boles.
Kayla Ring asked if switching systems in the middle of the school year would hurt student progress.
“It was a hard adjustment for a lot of people, but that adjustment has been made… If you stick with that, at least the kids are already used to it,” she said. “I want to go back five days, but we’re not in that scenario right now.”
Parents were sent a survey two weeks ago asking which learning model was best for their student for the second semester. Roughly 50% of parents responded to the survey.
By nearly a 2-1 margin, parents favored going back five days per week. There was a split as to whether masks should be mandatory or optional.
64.5% of parents at the elementary school supported a traditional five-day schedule, with 27.2% wanting masks mandatory and 37.3% optional. At the middle school, 65% wanted to go back full time, with 37.6 supporting mandatory masks. High school parents wanted full-time school with 62.5%, with 27.5% wanting mandatory masks.
The board also voted to adjust its policy on COVID closures and extracurricular activities. Under the change, if a staffing issue forces a school to close then sports and other activities could be held. If student illness forces closure, then all activities would be canceled.
“We want to do everything we can to give our students an opportunity to play and to keep them healthy,” said Director of Schools Clint Satterfield.
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or email@example.com.