CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Monday will be a half day for thousands of students in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS). District leaders said they are excited to get students back into buildings, and this year, there is a lot more of them back to in-person learning.
CMCSS Chief Communications Officer Anthony Johnson said that comes with some angst, but said teachers are prepared to support students -- not just academically but socially and emotionally, as well.
But while more are coming back in person, there are still some students who will be virtual in the district. They have a strictly virtual K-12 school, and as of about a week ago, there was more than 1,000 students enrolled.
For the back-to-school kids, there isn’t anything necessarily new. Johnson said in some ways, they're getting back to some of the things that were normal prior to the pandemic.
When it comes to preparing for this year, Johnson said one of the biggest challenges is staffing. Bus drivers are in high demand -- something the district said has been a problem for several years. Johnson said the transportation department has adjusted schedules and worked on programs like having other staff pick up routes.
He said they will work with families as best they can to notify when there are going to be late routes and asks for patience. Staffing is something they've been addressing during their prep for the year.
“A lot of this summer has been preparing with getting staffing in place. Of course, there’s been a national teacher shortage, through our innovative ‘grow your own programs,’ we've been able to address some of that but we still have open teaching positions. So that's really been a lot of the urgency right now is to make sure that we've got the staff in place, to welcome our students back,” he said.
This year, the district is keeping masks optional for everyone, including visitors. Johnson said the district is asking families to decide that’s best for them.
When it comes to social distancing, that’s tricky. Johnson said last year, even with reduced capacities, it’s extremely difficult. He said the facilities aren't made to provide that much space. He said the teachers will continue to try to keep students separate.
As for deep cleaning, Johnson said the custodial staff will do their best to keep the buildings clean, and heightened cleaning will continue, especially when they find out there might have been a positive case in a classroom.
They have a protocol where custodial staff will continue their two-step cleaning process there.
As we know, many students aren’t eligible for the vaccines and masks aren’t mandatory. When asked what the district wants to say to parents who have concerns about their child's health, Johnson said they encourage them to reach out to their child’s teacher or administrator to find out about their protocols.
“Ultimately there's really no way to completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 in public schools with in-person learning, but there are ways to mitigate the risk and we hope that families will, you know, will do their research will talk with their own medical providers to find out what ways they can help to protect their child, and protect their family, from, from COVID-19,” he said.
When it comes to learning loss this year, Johnson said it's something the teachers are prepared to address this year, and they will continue offering summer programs for the next few years.