With the second semester of school starting this week (starts on Tuesday, 01/04/2022), many Rutherford County School parents and county school employees may have questions about the protocols in place for COVID-19 in 2022.
The COVID positivity rate throughout Rutherford County on Monday, December 20, 2021 was 10.4%. December 20th was a significant date for the COVID-19 positivity rate, because it was the first day of winter break for the county school system.
When looking at that final week of school in 2021, the county schools reported 88 positive COVID-19 cases among the student population from December 13th through the 17th. Of that number, 49% of the positive cases were among elementary school students, 35% were high schoolers and 16% of middle school students were COVID positive.
From December 13th through December 17th, there were only 5 employees who tested positive for COVID-19 and 18 employees who were quarantined.
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Rutherford County Schools and COVID-19
Starting this semester off, the COVID-19 positivity rate throughout Rutherford County rings in at just over 70,300 residents, as of January 3, 2021 (Monday).
The schools say that first it’s important to remember the new state law that was adopted by the state legislature and governor in November.
This new law stipulates the following:
- The state health commissioner has the sole authority to design quarantine guidelines.
- Bans government entities and public schools from requiring masks, unless severe conditions arise.
- Severe conditions, as defined by the state, require the governor to declare a state of emergency AND the county must be experiencing at least 1,000 positive cases of COVID-19 for every 100,000 residents in the past 14 days. For Rutherford County, that would be about 3,400 cases in a 14-day period.
- In the event a mask requirement is issued, it must be requested by a school principal. The School Board can approve the request for up to 14 days on a school-by-school basis, and the school district must offer N95 masks.
Rutherford County Schools does have several COVID-19 procedures in place in accordance with the new law to help mitigate the pandemic:
- Employees or students exhibiting symptoms will not be permitted to attend school until those symptoms have been resolved.
- Schools are tracking contacts of positives cases and notifying those parents so they can consult the health department quarantine guidelines and calculator, which are available online.
- The school district has provided additional custodial supplies to ensure thorough cleaning of all schools, as has been done throughout the pandemic.
- The schools are using a MERV 13-rated air filtration system, which the CDC recommends.
- The school district will track and post COVID-19 information weekly to keep everyone informed.
- While optional, face coverings are strongly encouraged to limit the spread of COVID-19, and as a reminder, vaccinations are strongly recommended by the medical community and widely available throughout Rutherford County.
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The pandemic has put a strain on many public and private entities, and the school district is no exception. The Rutherford County School system, with over 49,000 students - is aiming to keep parents updated when these types of issues arise and are asking for parents to be patient and offer support as the schools navigate these challenges.
Some examples include:
- School cafeterias may experience food shortages and/or menu changes because of COVID-19 supply-chain issues.
- The school district may experience staffing needs in a variety of areas because of COVID-19 absences. These may include cafeteria workers, substitute teachers and bus drivers. Several types of positions are available for those interested in applying, and these positions offer competitive pay and benefits.
- The use of inclement weather days to delay school for COVID-19 is not advisable because there are a limited number of days available each year. Overuse of these days could extend the school year into the summer. Inclement-weather days are traditionally needed the most during the second semester.
- In the event of a widespread COVID issue affecting individual classes, the Tennessee Department of Education does allow school districts to apply for a waiver to move those classes to virtual learning for up to seven days.
An email sent to WGNS by the county schools stated, “We know this situation has caused inconveniences and put strain on families, employees and students. But we are confident that we can maintain a productive school year by working together and sharing information.”