Williamson County Schools will make masks optional for summer programs; officials optimistic, masks won’t be needed this fall

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Schools in Williamson County will not need face masks for summer programs. (Screenshot via wcs.org)

Students in Williamson County Schools’ summer programs will not be required to wear masks on campus as COVID-19 protocols continue to be relaxed.

The WCS Education Council discussed the matter during its working session on May 13. As local cases fell below 300 active cases, Superintendent Jason Golden said face masks will not be mandatory from the end of the month. The move comes just days after the Franklin Special School District announced that it would also not need masks during summer programs.

“The short version is that we intend to switch from ‘mandatory mask’ to ‘recommended or encouraged mask’ next Friday, [May] 21 when school lets out, ”Golden said.

Because there are fewer students on campus during the summer – around 5% of students – he said they will be able to allow for more social distancing. Golden said the district has already eliminated mask requirements for students who are outside.

“Our numbers are really low and our student-teacher ratio is 15: 1 during the summer, we are able to distribute people,” he said. “We concluded that the guidelines that still require masks when they’re still indoors don’t apply to what we’re going to be doing this summer.”

It is not yet clear what the safety protocols will look like when all students return in the fall. If the district chooses to implement a mask policy in the fall, board members could vote to adopt a new mask policy, in line with state guidelines, according to the Williamson County District Attorney, Dana Ausbrooks. No such policy has been presented to date.

Golden said the district did not anticipate masks would be needed this fall if trends continue and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to reduce restrictions. The district is not ready to say definitively whether masks will be optional this fall, he said.

“We don’t have any showing at this point,” Golden said. “We do not anticipate that we will ask to demand them, at most we anticipate an incentive or a recommendation or an option. I believe from now on masks will be an option, no one will ever stop someone from wearing a mask. “

However, one COVID-19 protocol still in place is the quarantine process, which Golden says is still under review by the state’s health department. During the summer, the district will not use seating charts, which are often used to determine who is close contact of someone confirmed to have COVID-19, Golden said. Going forward, fully vaccinated students and staff will not be required to self-quarantine, per CDC guidelines.

“What I can tell you is that with our students who are socially estranged in the summer, we won’t be making seating plans,” Golden said.

Golden said guidelines for COVID-19 are still in the process of changing, so district staff will continue to assess the standards over the coming weeks.

Gary Anderson, executive director of the COVID-19 response and former chairman of the education council, said the district will still complete cleaning routines that help reduce cases of COVID-19 in schools.

“We are finding that these trends are very positive for us,” Anderson said.


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