A third Wilson County Schools elementary school is now on remote learning as COVID-19 continues to affect the district.

W.A. Wright Elementary joined Mt. Juliet Elementary and Stoner Creek Elementary on remote learning Nov. 2, although the latter two returned to in-person education Monday, while Wright is on remote through Friday.

During the Nov. 2 board meeting, district Director Donna Wright and Health Services Supervisor Chuck Whitlock gave members an update on the coronavirus situation.

“We’re seeing a pretty good uptick right now,” Wright said. “We’re seeing some alarming numbers.”

She noted that the increase in cases corresponds to about two weeks after the return of students from fall break, and she expects Halloween to lead to another rise in cases with Thanksgiving just three weeks away.

“You look at the numbers of staff positives or under quarantine and we cannot keep going,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our schools open.”

Whitlock told the board that the district on Monday saw its 300th COVID-19 case since the beginning of the school year. In the county, the seven-day rolling average was 32.5 new cases per 100,000 residents, well above the 25 that is considered critical. The county’s positivity rate is 14.5%, with 10% being the cutoff for the high range.

Wright said it was a lack of staff, for the most part, that is forcing schools into remote learning, and that Lakeview Elementary, Rutland Elementary, Mt. Juliet High and Watertown Elementary were on the “watch list” for going to remote.

Human resources supervisor Lisa Spencer said teacher absentee rates are the highest she’s ever seen. On Nov. 2, 161 teachers were absent, leaving the district with 36 unfilled positions. Of the district’s substitute teacher pool, 35% did not return because of the pandemic, Spencer said, and 10%% of the remainder are currently on quarantine.

“We must continue to (practice good) hygiene, we must continue to (wear) masks,” Wright said. “Parents are pushing us to go to the traditional model, but we just can’t do it.”

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