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School returns, COVID remains
School - teacher Amanda Gibbs.jpg
WCMS teacher Amanda Gibbs goes through opening day announcements Wednesday as Warren County Schools began the 2020-21 year.

With COVID concerns raining down on America, Warren County Schools opened to sunny skies on Wednesday and Thursday under a new hybrid learning model.

The new model has roughly half the student body in physical school buildings at one time, while the other half learns remotely from home.

“Honestly, I could not be more proud of our students and our staff for the way the first two days went,” said Director of Schools Grant Swallows. “I’ve been to every school and the overall feeling is great. Kids are excited to be back. Teachers are excited to be back. I’ve had parents come up to me and say ‘My kid had a great day’ and that’s the best compliment you can get. That makes all the planning worthwhile.”

The hybrid system is set to expire Aug. 28 and there’s already talk of extending it past the original 2.5-week phase-in period. That’s one of the main reasons this month’s School Board meeting has been moved up a week to be held this Thursday, Aug. 20.

“I have a feeling there will be a lot of discussion about extending it,” said Swallows.

While the first two days went well, coronavirus still lurks. Morrison principal Kim Cantrell is among the faculty members who has quarantined due to COVID exposure. Several teachers are also out.

“I think the biggest threat that hangs overhead that could force us to go all virtual is the number of employees who are in quarantine,” said Swallows. “Some of these people are not even sick, but they’ve come in contact with someone who is.”

Since schools have reopened in Tennessee, several high-ranking officials have tested positive for COVID-19. Among the most prominent is Jason Golden, who is superintendent of Williamson County Schools.

Swallows says Warren County aims to be transparent and he expects to establish a dashboard system of reporting coronavirus cases for students and teachers similar to what other school systems have developed.

“That’s also something that will be discussed at the School Board meeting,” said Swallows.