HHS

Sumner County students returned to in-person classes on Aug. 3. Teachers, middle and high school students are required to wear face coverings per a mandate from Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt. TENA LEE

Eleven Sumner County public schools have reported positive COVID-19 cases a week into the new school year, according to Sumner County Schools Spokesman Jeremy Johnson.

Exact numbers of how many students and teachers are impacted by the virus were not available.

Sumner students returned to in-person classes on Aug. 3 following a hybrid schedule, meaning they are attending class two days a week and learning from home the other three days.

Director of Schools Dr. Del Phillips is expected to announce this week if students will continue in the hybrid model or attend class full-time based on the amount of community spread of the virus.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 12 there were 1,277 active cases of the virus in Sumner County, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

That number has steadily declined since more than 1,500 active cases were reported near the end of July. The number puts the community spread rate at .66 percent. In total, there have been 3,501 COVID-19-positive cases and 73 deaths reported in the county since March.

According to the school district’s Pathway to Re-entry Plan, all Sumner students would return to a traditional schedule of in-person classes if there is minimal spread of less than .5 percent. If there is substantial spread of more than 1 percent, school buildings would be closed and remote or distance learning would be instituted.

Also, according to the school district’s plan, K-5 grade students are scheduled to return full-time on Aug. 17.

Johnson said the district continues to monitor the case numbers daily and will make an announcement soon regarding next week's schedule.

As expected, several school districts across the state have reported positive COVID-19 cases, and Sumner is no exception.

"As of Tuesday afternoon, we have had 10 schools impacted by COVID-19 positives,” Johnson said in an email on Aug. 11. “Parents of the students in the affected classrooms have been notified via our school messenger system per our district protocol.”

The 10 schools are H.B. Williams Elementary, Walton Ferry Elementary, Howard Elementary, Beech High, Station Camp High, Hendersonville High, Knox Doss Middle School at Drakes Creek, Vena Stuart Elementary, Portland Gateview Elementary and Indian Lake Elementary schools. 

In an email on Aug. 12, Johnson said that there was an additional reported case at George Whitten Elementary School. 

Parents whose child has come in close contact with someone who is confirmed to be COVID-19 positive while at school receive an automated message that asks them to monitor their child for symptoms, consult with a healthcare provider and follow the CDC recommendations to quarantine for 14 days, according to Johnson.

When asked how many teachers or staff have tested positive, Johnson referred any questions about the number of positive cases in the district to the Sumner County Health Department.

“Our responsibility is to assist the Sumner County Health Department in contact tracing when requested,” he said. “We will not be reporting on individual cases.”

Gov. Bill Lee said in early August that his administration was creating a plan that would allow schools to share information about the number of COVID-19 cases. However, that plan has yet to be released.

On Tuesday, Lee announced a new dashboard on the Department of Education’s website that provides information about each school district’s status of offering in-person learning, virtual learning or hybrid. The dashboard can be found here: https://www.tn.gov/education/district-technology/district-instructional-model.html

Sumner County students were given the choice of attending classes in-person or through the district’s Virtual Academy. Of the school district’s nearly 30,000 students, about 4,000 have chosen the Virtual Academy option, according to Johnson.

Complete enrollment numbers won’t be released until the district issues its 20-day report later this month.

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