With less than a month until the start of the new school year, what to expect inside Middle Tennessee classrooms is becoming more clear.
Districts — including Murfreesboro City Schools, Rutherford County Schools, Wilson County Schools and, most recently, Metro Nashville Public Schools — have announced that face coverings will be optional for students and staff.
The new health protocol is in compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines for K-12 schools, which mainly recommend that masks be worn by students and staff who are not fully vaccinated. That mostly applies to schools that serve students under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The CDC is also advising schools to maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students inside classrooms. When social distancing is not possible, the CDC recommends schools layer multiple prevention strategies like indoor masking, hand-washing and ventilation to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.
COVID protocols vary by district in Middle Tennessee
In Metro Nashville Public Schools:
- Face coverings will be optional for students and staff, but those who are not vaccinated are strongly recommended to do so
- Visitors will be limited to those attending for an educational purpose, such as mentorship, tutoring, classroom support and advisors
- School nurses will be able to conduct COVID-19 rapid tests on an as-needed basis
- School nurses will continue to conduct contact tracing
- Students or staff who are vaccinated are not required to quarantine if no symptoms are present
- Social distancing will continue whenever possible
In Murfreesboro City Schools:
- Face coverings will be optional for students
- Adults are recommended to follow CDC guidelines for masks or face coverings
- School visitors will be limited based on school and classroom capabilities at the discretion of administration
- No visitors will be allowed during school lunch breaks
- Grade level assemblies will be allowed during the school day with no more than 50% gym capacity
- Virtual Field Trips are encouraged while off-campus field trips will be evaluated in the fall
- Cafeterias will be utilized for school lunches at a maximum 50% capacity
- Social distancing and room capacity will be considered for all non-mandatory and after school events
In Wilson County Schools:
- Facial coverings will be optional for all students and staff
- Symptom checks will be conducted once per week using standard questions recommended by the Tennessee Department of Health
- If Wilson County’s 7-day new case rate exceeds 25 new cases per 100,000 residents, temperature checks will be performed at the building entry
- Unvaccinated and symptomatic students determined to have been in “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19 will be required to quarantine
- When possible, students will be physically distanced by at least 3 feet within the classroom
In Rutherford County Schools:
- Face coverings will be optional for employees and students this school year
In Franklin Special School District, the school board is currently reviewing the district’s back to school guidance and a detailed update will be announced over the next two weeks. According to a school official, the district plans to make face coverings optional and maintain social distancing when possible.