December 29, 2020
Putnam County School System, TN
Earlier today, Governor Bill Lee moved school employees into the phase 1b group for the availability of receiving the vaccine for COVID-19. In Putnam County, the vaccine will be available for school employees beginning Saturday morning but it will take several days to vaccinate all who are willing to receive it. In order to allow all employees who would like to receive a vaccine the opportunity to do so, we will be delaying the start of the second semester until Wednesday, January 6, 2021. This is an important step in our community to protect our school employees, their families, and begin the path to returning to normal activities.
As we have done daily since the beginning of school, when we reopen next week we will closely monitor the absentee rates of both students and staff. We will continue to closely monitor the spread of the virus in our schools. Since schools opened in August, 801 students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those testing positive, 32 reported they believe their exposure to the virus occurred in school or relating to school activities. The majority of those exposed to the virus relating to school activities occurred during extracurricular activities where students were in close proximity to one another and not masked during the activity. I share this information to illustrate that while the possibility of contracting the virus at school is not zero, it is relatively low if we all follow established protocols of maintaining social distancing when possible, wearing masks properly, and washing hands frequently.
I firmly believe that in-person learning is best for our students, teachers, and our community. Even so, like many of you, I am concerned about a potential spike in positive cases following the holiday break. If we begin identifying clusters or spread of the virus in our schools or classrooms, we will enact the provisions of our Return to School Plan that allow us to transition to remote learning. By the plan, we have the flexibility to close classrooms, grade-levels, or schools as necessary to slow and contain the spread of the virus if an outbreak is identified. Just as families must prepare for possible school closures due to inclement weather or other circumstances often beyond our control, families must have a plan in place for remote learning should that become necessary in our community. We realize the hardship that school closures place on families and the challenges associated with changes in status. In any event, we will provide as much notice as possible to families before any changes to our school status.
As we approach the New Year, my hopes and wishes are that our families and our community find peace with each other. I hope that we no longer take for granted time with each other and the value of human connection. I hope that we show respect to each other even in disagreement, give grace when needed, and love in spite of differences. For all of you and your families, my wish is that 2021 is filled with hope, joy, and new opportunities!