LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WAFF) - Barely more than a week into the school year, and Lincoln County Schools is already running into some trouble. According to the Director of LCS, Dr. Bill Heath, more than 70 students and 16 staff members are in quarantine.
This all stems from four COVID-19 positive people within the school district, two staff members and two students.
On Friday, Heath announced one student and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at South Lincoln Elementary. Then on Saturday, Heath announced one student and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at Flintville Elementary.
Now, Heath said 11 staff members at Flintville Elementary are in quarantine, along with five staff members at South Lincoln Elementary.
“It’s been sort of a roller coaster ride this week, we knew there were things we didn’t know as we started this because we were one of the first to actually start back,” Heath said.
On Monday morning, Heath said the biggest problem they had was making sure they actually had enough adults in Flintville Elementary for it to be operational. He said the 11 faculty members in quarantine is about 25% of the overall staff for the school.
Heath is also starting to notice the effect the pandemic is having on the students.
“Our children, especially in the middle and lower grades, are scared,” he said “They’re not sure what’s going on. In the past, when a classmate had the sniffles or a cough and they went to the nurse and usually 30 minutes later they were coming back, but now they’re not coming back for 14 days, so they’re scared.”
Heath said going forward, teachers and counselors will work on having open conversations with students about what is happening around them.
It’s worth mentioning, students are only encouraged, not required, to wear masks at Lincoln County Schools. Heath said their local government is not issuing a mask order so they decided to do the same.
In Lincoln County Schools back to school plan, level 2 is where masks become mandatory. For that to happen, Heath said one-half of one percent of the population of Lincoln County has to have an active COVID-19 case.
Heath said that means there need to be 173 active cases, as of Monday, there were 144. According to the plan, if the number of active cases in the county got up to 343, the school system would then close.
Heath did say he thinks more and more conversations about mandating masks at certain points throughout the school day, like during high school passing period, will be happening very soon. When students decide whether or not to wear a mask, he hopes they think about what could happen if the virus spreads.
“If one case happens here and the quarantine spreads the way it has at other schools, this enjoyment and excitement that you have about returning to school and seeing your friends could disappear as quickly as we were able to start it a week ago,” he said.
In the event the quarantine does spread at more schools and more positive cases are discovered, Heath said they are working on a hybrid or completely virtual learning plan. If that does happen, he said parents can anticipate a three day buffer to allow teachers to prepare.
Going forward, Heath said they plan to take things one day at a time, which can be difficult for educators.
“We can’t anticipate the unknown right now,” he said. “Educators, we’re so used to planning and we always plan two, three, four five steps ahead. And this is a situation, with COVID-19, where we really can’t see beyond the next day.”
For parents who may feel uncomfortable with in-person learning, Heath said they can switch to virtual learning whenever they want, but can’t switch back to in-person until the 9 week grading period is over.