Rutherford County Schools is shifting more students out of the classroom because of COVID related staffing shortages. They now have seven schools on temporary distance learning.
The district has had to move schools in and out of quarantine just about every other day. The latest building to be added to the list was Blackman High School in Murfreesboro.
“The school is experiencing an increased number of employees who are on quarantine,” said district spokesperson James Evans, in an email to parents. “So the school is closing for the next few days which will allow many of them to complete their quarantine period.”
Blackman High will reopen its classrooms to students on Tuesday. This is the school’s second quarantine since November.
“When schools meet the closure metrics, we do feel that they should close,” said Geneva Cook, a 12th grade English teacher at Blackman High. “We know it can be a disruption to families to have to make arrangements for their students to be home, but safety has to be the first priority. The teachers are definitely on board with that.”
In the past few months, surrounding school districts including Metro Nashville Public Schools, Maury County Schools and Williamson County Schools have all closed buildings because of staff quarantines.
On Wednesday evening, Wilson County Schools, announced that all of its schools would shift to remote learning next week. The district is planning to reopen classrooms in January.
All Wilson County Schools will be in a Remote Learning setting, effective next week (December 14th – 18th). More details are in the link below. ⬇️https://t.co/RDfiA1WGpS
— WilsonK12Tn (@WilsonK12Tn) December 9, 2020
In Rutherford County, Cook, who’s also the vice president of the Rutherford Education Association, says the district has done a fairly good job of keeping buildings COVID-free. But she’d like more guidance from the state and federal government to better accommodate teachers.
“It’s really like all of this has been a big experiment,” said Cook. “And really the question is, ‘How is it going to affect students and the teaching profession in the long run?’ ”
So far during this COVID surge, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee hasn’t made any additional moves like implementing a statewide mask mandate, after a round of early restrictions in the early months of the pandemic.
Cook, however, says teachers have gone above and beyond to keep schools open.
“A lot of teachers have not seen their parents, adult children and grandchildren in months,” said Cook. “A lot of us have really been very good about staying isolated and just staying within our own very immediate family pod.”
Some teachers, though, are becoming more anxious and concerned about COVID exposure because of family gatherings during the upcoming holidays. Cook says many educators also feel that at times, they are seen as a lower priority when it comes to the overall COVID-19 response.
The teachers union did request that Rutherford County Schools go all-virtual the week before and after winter break. The district, however, is standing by its current hybrid model. They say they will move to distance learning only if necessary.
“The concern is mounting as we enter winter break,” said Cook. “We don’t know what the students and their families are going to be doing — and what they are going to bring back to us in January.”