CLARKSVILLE — Clarksville ISD Superintendent Kermit Ward made a difficult decision Tuesday evening.
“We knew that this was a likely possibility,” Ward said of closing his district through the end of the week. “What’s surprising is how early it caught us.”
After a handful of students and three teachers at Cheatham Elementary tested positive for Covid-19, Ward said he came to the conclusion that the best option for the district would be to shut down until Monday.
The decision was made based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which say that Covid-19 symptoms usually manifest around five to eight days after one is infected with the virus. Ward said that since the district had a three-day weekend, those days combined with the rest of the week and the coming weekend will give students and faculty enough time to assess whether they have symptoms and may need to quarantine.
Ward said that due to the size of the district, he felt it made sense to send all teachers and students home rather than just quarantine three grade levels at Cheatham.
“Structurally, we are not really set up to withstand that. Due to our small size, when you’ve got one teacher that has the virus, and she’s got quarantine, you have to quarantine the students she touches — well, that’s the whole grade level,” he said.
Ward ensured that students wouldn’t lose a week’s worth of instruction. The district will move forward with distance learning for the rest of the week. All Clarksville ISD students, including those who have elected to attend class in person, have been taking class online on Wednesdays so each student is acquainted with learning from home. Ward said this will help with the transition for the rest of the week, as all students already know how to work from home.
“What we’re doing now, it’s an easy transition,” the superintendent said.
Like many school districts, there have been some bumps in the road with online learning, Ward said. Some students have struggled to attend virtual classes or complete assignments, but he wanted to make sure the option was still available — in case a situation like this came along.
“There’s been a trend of some districts revoking the distance learning in its entirety. I just don’t agree with that,” Ward said. “I don’t think we should do that. We shouldn’t turn our back on that entirely, which some districts just say all kids are coming back. But if that’s the case, what do you do when you get to a situation like this? You’re not ready.”
As of Wednesday, Ward said he was informed of another teacher, this time at the high school, who tested positive for the virus, but that none of the teachers have experienced severe symptoms. One teacher reported that she has temporarily lost her ability to taste food, but other than that, Ward said they all seem to be in relatively good health.
“There’s no one as of now, as of (Wednesday), that is having severe medical issues,” Ward said. “Everybody’s fine… A few of them are sick, but it’s no different than being sick with a cold. They haven’t experienced being emergency room-type sick.”
For now, all Ward said he and the district can do is move forward and roll with the punches.
“The only thing we’re doing is managing the time. You don’t win with coronavirus. You manage it,” he said. “That’s what we’re gonna do is we’re trying to successfully manage through and navigate through the maze.”