Wilson County, Tenn. (TN Tribune)—Concerned citizens of Wilson County today announced a “Sick Day for Safe Schools,” with dozens of parents holding their Wilson Co. Schools students out of school—either by choice or as a result of widespread quarantines—amid rapidly rising Covid-19 case numbers in the county, particularly in the days since schools opened on Aug. 5. A copy of the “Sick Day for Safe Schools” statement that was sent to Wilson Co. Director of Schools and all member of the Wilson County school board are below.
Key current Wilson Co. Covid-19 data points include:
  • As of Aug. 12, 7-day new daily Covid-19 case rate/100k in Wilson County was 58.5, outpacing the state of Tennessee as a whole and
  • The number of school-aged Wilson Co. children diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last two weeks has now climbed to 232. This number has risen by more than 100 children over the course of this week. Wilson Co. is in the top 12 percent of Tennessee’s 95 counties for new covid cases in school-aged children. (TNDOH Cases Among 5-18 Year Olds)
  •  Wilson Co. Schools on Friday posted a video message from Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell, who shared updated district data. Through Thursday, Aug. 12 (6 school days), 168 cases had been reported in the district. 850 students had been identified as a close contact and been subject to the district’s quarantine policy. In other words, more than 4 percent of Wilson County’s students are already missing valuable instructional days. Note that, per Tennessee state law and WCS protocols, there is no coordinated district-wide virtual learning offering for Wilson Co. students. (The WCS Covid-19 data dashboard is updated weekly with the prior week’s data; next update on Monday, Aug. 16.)
Christy Martin Bullington, whose son attends a WCS elementary school, received a call Sunday evening notifying her that her son had been exposed to Covid-19 at school on Friday, Aug. 6 and could not return to school for at least six days, and not until August 17 should he test positive for Covid-19. Her son soon fell ill and subsequently spent Monday night at Centennial Hospital in Nashville, on oxygen.
“Our children are watching their classrooms dwindle as peers fall ill or are confined at home due to close contact exposure,” Burlington said. “All of these students are at home without any coordinated district-wide accommodations for virtual learning. They are suffering learning loss, along with social and psychological damage, while our school board sits on its hands.”
As some Wilson Co. parents who have vocally opposed the Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates are now resisting stay-at-home orders for students who they claim are asymptomatic, local healthcare professionals have begun reaching out to Wilson Co. Parents for Truth to support the call for stronger contact tracing, quarantine and in-school mitigation protocols from the school board.
While WCS Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell extolled the district’s successful contact tracing efforts in Friday’s video message, parents throughout the district have been alarmed by photos from school that show children shoulder-to-shoulder in hallways, classrooms and play spaces; school-based events like breakfasts, pep rallies and speeches that have continued unabated; and lax visitor policies in schools, where parents and visitors (many of them likely unvaccinated) are welcomed to move freely through school buildings.
Wilson Co. Parents for Truth contacted Dr. William Schaffner, Medical Director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and local infectious disease expert Dr. David Aronoff for comment on the current Covid-19 mitigation protocols in Wilson Co. schools.
In a joint statement, Dr. Schaffner and Dr. Aronoff said: “Covid-19 activity is high and increasing in our region. Pediatric and adult hospital beds are filling, including ICU beds, which are in short supply across the state. We need to use multiple risk-reduction strategies to slow this virus down. It is a top priority to immunize all eligible persons and insist on the use of well-fitting masks when we are indoors or in crowded outdoor settings. These measures and others (such as social distancing, improved air filtration systems and room ventilation, daily screening for symptoms of Covid-19 and having clear protocols for testing, quarantining contacts and isolating infected persons) are needed to reduce the harm caused by SARS-CoV-2.”
The Wilson Co. School Board Wednesday night called a special meeting to be held on Saturday, Aug. 14 for a discussion of the district’s policy on communicable diseases; it has been suggested this meeting was requested by a school board member in response to complaints from parents who claim close contact quarantines should be made optional. On Friday morning, that meeting was cancelled. In an announcement, WCS said the cancellation was due to the unavailability of any officials from the TN Department of Health to speak to contact tracing and quarantining requirements.
The next regular Wilson Co. School Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8. In the meantime, Wilson Co. Parents for Truth are lobbying the board to reconvene its recessed Aug. 2 meeting to further discuss and take a vote on enacting a temporary mask mandate in Wilson Co. schools.
Letter to WCS announcing “Sick Day for Safe Schools”
We, the undersigned parents, will be calling our children out “sick” on Friday, August 13th to protest the unsafe conditions the Wilson County Board of Education is creating in our schools through their failure to follow the layered approach to reducing Covid-19 transmission in our schools as laid out by the CDC.
The Delta variant is 2 and 1/2 times more transmissible than the original strain of covid-19 and is indeed endangering both adults and children in our community. The number of Wilson County residents hospitalized with Covid-19 has doubled since last week. According to Tennessee Department of Health, there are currently 49 children in hospitals, 14 in the ICU and 5 on ventilators. Now is not the time for the board to become lax and pick and choose which guidelines they are going to follow.
We are asking that you follow the guidance of the overwhelming majority of medical professionals and mandate masks for all students, teachers, staff, and visitors in our schools. While quarantines are a burden, we also believe they are necessary and should not be optional. The best way to reduce the loss of instructional time is to reduce exposure and spread through universal masking.
We believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Protecting those rights means ensuring no one is allowed to endanger others through their action or inaction.
You have the knowledge, guidance, and authority. To delay is negligence.
With Concern*,
Mae Alderman
Kathryn Laudin
Sick in Protest:
Erin & Jason Moore
Amber Love Reese
Ruth Hall
Leaura Lyde
Chayla Volz
Lisa Renee
Jamie Lee
Miles Fuqua
Bridget & Tebey Ottoh
Already Quarantined:
Heather Tryon
Amanda & Matthew Sims
Mc Trish
Rebecca Walker
Can’t afford to miss in-school instructional time:
Jaclyn Dalton de Koff
Yvonne Martinez
Caroline Cooper Huddleston
Dr. Megan Schwalm (already had to quarantine)
Kenneth Zaremba
Jessica & Luke Hoffman
Rachel Bauman
Mealka & Matthew Werner
Laura Esposito Woerner
Rachel Kissinger
Beatriz Monroy
Rachel DeLary Dolezal
Amy Allen
Anna & Lee Huffman
Jane Guither
Bridget & Tebey Ottoh
Dr. David & Rachael Lewis
Wilson County voter who has removed student from WCS due to unsafe conditions:
Laura Santini
Felicia Castillo Powers
Stephanie & Jason Miller
Christy Hagan
*The reality is not everyone can afford to pull their kids from school, even when conditions are not as they should be. For many families, missing in-school instructional days provides a large challenge. Some families have already had the choice taken from them by the unsafe condition of our schools and the rapid spread of this illness. The names on this list highlight in many ways the need for the schools to not react to spread, but to prevent it.