SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — The Sevier County School District reported 93 active COVID-19 cases on their dashboard Monday afternoon, just one week into their 2021-2022 school year. Additionally, there are 370 students and 15 staff members listed in quarantine. There are approximately 14,000 students district-wide.
Tony Ogle, the Assistant Superintendent for School Services, said this was expected as school resumed. Ogle also said a lot of the cases on their dashboard are a result of summer vacation. “A lot of the positives that we’ve got and the quarantines we’ve got are ones that parents have self-reported to us because on the first day of school they called in and said my child is positive.”
Ogle also said school staff will continue monitoring case numbers in each school and throughout the community. Something they don’t plan to do is add a mask mandate. “The Governor’s recent order that allows an exemption for parents, we feel like that trying to initiate a mask mandate at this point wouldn’t really be practical because there will be a lot of folks that will opt-out,” he said.
For now, Ogle said the current school policy will continue. In Sevier County Schools, masking up is ‘strongly recommended’ when social distancing is not possible, but it’s not required.
Ogle also said a big part of keeping case numbers low will be staying on top of contract tracing. “Usually, the Nurse or the Administrator in that building sits down and looks at seating charts in that classroom, looks at if that child plays a sport or is in an extracurricular activity.” Then school officials review who that student has been in close contact with. “Close contact is being within 6 feet of each other for more than 15 minutes.”
Finally, parents are called to quarantine their children. Ogle said the entire contact tracing process shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.
Bryan McCarter is the Sevier County Vice Mayor and also has kids in the district. He said for his family it was about starting the school year with flexibility in mind. “Just walking into school with those expectations has just made it a lot easier, knowing that if something happens we’re going to try and roll with those punches as best as we can,” said McCarter.
He also said it’s about trust. “They’re doing everything that they need to do to keep the environment as safe as possible it’s reassuring as a parent,” he said.
Lastly, Ogle reminded parents there is COVID-19 testing at Sevier County Schools with the consent of parents. He also said the district’s COVID-19 dashboard will be updated each Monday afternoon.