NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s big day for students at Metro Nashville Public Schools as they return to in-person learning, and protocols are in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
There were several meetings to discuss the policy, and ultimately, the school board decided to make them a requirement for everyone inside schools because the threat of the Delta variant, along with cases and hospitalizations growing in the state.
The policy was approved after Nashville Mayor John Cooper issued an Executive Order mandating masks in Metro Government facilities. It also aligns with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending universal masking in all K-12 facilities.
MNPS Director Dr. Adrienne Battle spoke to reporters Tuesday and was asked what she had to say to those parents who do not want their children wearing masks in school.
“This COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone, so it’s important for all of us to really leverage all the mitigation strategies possible, to not only protect you as an individual but our community at large,” Battle said. “And so, I would encourage our parents, our staff members, anyone who is listening or have a part in our journey of educating all of our students to take those mitigation strategies seriously so that we can hopefully put this pandemic behind us and get back to a sense of normalcy.”
WATCH: MNPS Director Dr. Adrienne Battle speaks as the district begins school today.
Dr. Battle said she and the school board are closely monitoring the recommendations from the CDC and the American Pediatrics Association, as well as Metro Public Health.
If these groups decide a mask mandate is no longer necessary, then Dr. Battle said they will consider lifting the mandate on their end.
WHAT IF A STUDENT REFUSES TO WEAR A MASK?
MNPS has also released a guide for implementing and enforcing COVID protocols for 2021-22 school year. If a student refuses to wear a mask or maintain social distancing guidelines, they face potential conduct violations, including reckless endangerment.
Dr. Battle says they will begin by treating these violations as you would dress code issues, which could mean being sent home with an unexcused absence. She says this should be a last resort, because the focus should be keeping kids in school as much as possible.
"The policy for us is on restorative practices. We want to restore. We want to make sure that our students and families are well aware of the policies and then we want to be supportive before we would ever go to any progressive disciplinary practices," Battle said.
The district said all students will be required to wear masks unless they have a medical exemption, including “disabilities, medical conditions, or mental health conditions,” that make it difficult to wear a face covering all day.
OTHER COVID PROTOCOLS IN PLACE
The district also plans to social distance when possible.
School nurses will continue to conduct contact tracing and will be able to conduct COVID rapid tests on an as-needed basis. Parents need to sign a permission form for their child to be tested.
A mask will not be required outdoors, and the district will continue to limit visitors, except those who are visiting for an educational purpose.
Metro Schools has also partnered with the Metro Public Health Department to offer vaccine clinics. There will be one today at MNPS English Learners office starting at 8 a.m. Right now, Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine is available for anyone 12 years and older.