How School Districts Persevered Despite COVID-19

photo: Williamson County Schools Facebook Page

This article is part of our series “COVID-19: 1 Year Later,” exploring the ways COVID-19 has affected and changed daily life over the last year. For two weeks, we surveyed our readers on how COVID-19 has affected them. Read our survey results here. Today, we share how the two local school districts worked together to have a successful school year while facing COVID-19.

The school year has wrapped and commencement ceremonies have concluded; summer is officially here for our local students. Jason Golden, Superintendent of Williamson County Schools, and David Snowden, Director of Schools for Franklin Special School District, both say the 2020 – 2021 school year was quite a year. It was a year of challenges. But, thanks to their teachers, staff, parents and students, it was also a year of many successes.

In April, students in Williamson County Schools took TCAP examinations, the annual assessment of student learning in math, English, English language arts, social studies, and science. Last year the test was canceled due to COVID-19; this year the testing window was extended. Districts could choose when to administer the tests between April 12 and June 10. Williamson County chose to take it early. While test scores are expected to drop due to online schooling, Golden has so far seen great results with other academic testing.

“We had a great year for a normal year,” Golden recently reported, “but even better considering the pandemic. We had 51 National Merit Scholars, the third year in a row to have over 50; three sophomores had perfect PSAT scores; and 41 had perfect ACT scores.”

The school district also received accolades in sports and the arts, winning state championships in tennis, track and field, soccer, wrestling. Also, students were named to All State Band, All State Orchestra, All State Choir, and the inaugural All State Theater Group. These are just a few of the sports and arts accomplishments from the last school. Visit InFocus to read more.

This last fall, the two school districts worked together to create a plan for getting students back into the classroom. Both school systems supported students, parents, teachers, and administration to follow CDC protocols, including wearing of masks and hand washing. They included a plan for quarantine when cases of COVID-19 broke out.

“We did incredibly well drilling down to a grade level or a classroom,” said Golden.

“Students learn best in the classroom,” said Snowden, “although teachers worked hard to make virtual learning attractive…It took a lot of creativity.”

Still, there has been definite learning loss in the last 14 months. Williamson County Schools planned Summer learning loss make-up sessions for rising first through ninth graders.

The other concern of both heads of schools was the social, mental and emotional health of their students.

“We were able to find a way to give every student some one-on-one adult interaction every day, whether they were at school physically or virtually,” said Snowden. “We are going to figure out how to keep that going. It has had a very positive effect.”

Another issue during the height of the pandemic last year was food insecurity.  From March 19 through May 21, Franklin Special School District, with the help of the community, provided more than 103,000 meals for food insecure families. And during the summer another 85,000 meals were served.

While things are getting back to some normality with the availability of vaccines, both Golden and Snowden are making plans for the future, addressing some of the social issues that have arisen during the pandemic.

“We have been listening to the community,” added Golden “to make our schools safe and healthy for all of our students.”