Just over 25% of all Wilson County Schools students have opted out of the district’s mask mandate that went into effect on Sept. 10.
As of Sept. 20, there were 5,164 students whose parents or guardians had allowed them to opt out of the mandate. That is 26.72% of the 19,328 students enrolled in WCS, according to WCS Human Resources Director Rebecca Owens.
The opt-out alternative is allowed through Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order No. 84, which is in effect through Oct. 5. The district will re-evaluate the mask mandate at their Oct. 4 meeting, Luttrell said at the Sept. 8 meeting.
WCS spokesman Bart Barker said that the number is not surprising and that it’s “tough to say” if the number of opt outs was higher or lower than anticipated.
“When something is being offered for the first time, it’s difficult to gauge exactly where the interest level would be,” he said. “However, having nearly 27% opt-out gives us a number we can always look back on and compare it to any new numbers in the future if need be.”
WCS also released COVID case numbers for the week ending Sept. 17. The number of students who tested positive was lower than the previous week, but the total number of contact-traced students more than doubled over the previous week.
As of Sept. 20, there were 132 positive student cases, which is 31 students fewer than the previous week. However, there were 787 contact-traced students, up from 317 for the week ending Sept. 10.
“The rise in quarantines last week, despite the lower cases, stems from a full week of contact tracing,” Barker said. “Keep in mind that Sept. 4 through Sept. 10 included Labor Day. That was a shorter reporting week from inside our schools for cases/quarantines.”
“Our schools have done an incredible job of doing all the things necessary to maintain the safest and cleanest environment possible. We can’t say thank you enough to our custodial staffs for all they’ve done and will continue to do as well. Even though the current trend is better, we can’t get complacent on safe health practices. We must continue to be proactive in doing all we can to help drive those numbers down.”
The new numbers bring the total number of COVID-positive cases to 1,163 since the beginning of the school year. There have been 6,312 students who have been contact traced since the beginning of the school year.
There were 19 positive cases among WCS staff for the week ending Sept. 17. That is up from 15 for the week ending Sept. 10. There were also eight staff members who were contact traced, up from three for the previous week.
Since the beginning of school, there have been 126 positive cases among staff members and 48 staff members who have been contact traced.
Because the Lebanon Special School District has not initiated a mask mandate, “there is no reason or avenue to opt out,” said LSSD Director Scott Benson.
For the week ending Sept. 19, LSSD counted 22 positive student cases and one faculty and staff positive case. One first-grade class at Coles Ferry Elementary School was quarantined during that week.
The previous there were 19 student positive cases and seven faculty and staff members who were COVID positive. There were two classes at Byars Dowdy Elementary School and one at Jones Brummett that were quarantined for the week ending Sept. 12.
“We continue to be encouraged by our declining positive cases and improved attendance for staff and students,” Benson said.
The school year total is 258 COVID positive cases among students and 44 positive cases among faculty and staff. Since the beginning of the school year, there were 11 classes quarantined and two athletic teams quarantined.