CLARKSVILLE — Clarksville ISD shut down all schools last week due to several staff members testing positive for coronavirus. The intention was to allow for an incubation period of 10 days for Covid-19 symptoms to show up and afford students and staff the time to get tested. Superintendent Kermit Ward said three of the cases included teachers at Cheatham Elementary, and the district was caught in a situation where it would have to shut down three entire grades, so it chose to close entirely as a safety precaution.
In an effort to stay ahead of the curve, Ward instituted a four-day in-person schedule, meaning all in-person students were learning from home on Wednesdays so they would understand how to do remote schooling if a situation like this were to arise.
“This year has been a struggle. I think that it will continue to be a struggle. The shutdown created a disruption where you can’t get into the groove, or momentum of having school,” Ward said. “People don’t look at school the same way as you do anything else, but it really is the same concept, when you can kind of develop and establish routines. When you feel like you have those routines, it always amazes us how quickly routines can actually be abandoned. A disruption that long, it creates a struggle getting the kids back in the groove.”
While some students and parents were eager to get back in that groove, Ward said some families were not on the same page as the district as far as the timeline of the shutdown. Ward made his decision to enter into the week-long shutdown, paired with a three-day weekend for a total of 10 days, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines about the period of time the virus takes to develop. But he said some parents have told the district they would’ve liked for the shutdown to be longer.
“We still have quite a few of our kids out because our community thinks that we should quarantine for 14 days,” Ward said. “What the research says is, you’ll know all you need to know with a 10-day quarantine. That’s why we actually just took the week off. What the research says is the incubation period for this is seven to eight days, so just being away from the school for 10 days, it put us in a position to where if anyone actually got the virus, if any more people were sick, we would have known during that period.”
Ward said the district made the choice it thought would be the safest and least disruptive, but that some parents have decided to continue to keep their kids at home.
“You still have parents that say, ‘Well, I’m gonna take my kid out another week,’ and those decisions just will have consequences down the road, for us and for our kids, for those individual kids,” Ward said. “The best place for those kids to be is in school. And I know we’re dealing with safety and health, and that always will be paramount and this whole big scheme. But we still have to give ourselves a fair chance to educate our kids.”
The shutdown allowed the district to take what Ward and his staff believed was the safest route, but he said having all students learn remotely further revealed a problem the district had already been having. Many students are not participating or turning in assignments, but Ward said he believes a key part factor in the low turnout is parental involvement.
“What we say is, and this is what needs to be said out loud is, we don’t necessarily see this as a kid issue. This is a parent issue,” Ward said. “I don’t ask my parents to be able to pick out an adjective or an adverb out of a sentence. I don’t ask them to be able to help their kids do that. I don’t ask them to know the Pythagorean Theorem. What I do ask my parents to do is something that I feel like they all should be equipped to do, which is just have high expectations for our kids. Everybody can do that. And right now, I just feel like we have some households where that’s really not taking place.”
Ward said he hopes parents whose students are not engaging with online school will become more involved in order to help their kids succeed, whether that’s just checking in with them to see if they’ve logged in or if they’ve completed their homework for the day. Speaking from personal experience, Ward said even single parents or working parents can make the effort to step up and be involved in the child’s education.
“I was a single parent product, it was just me and my mom, I was an only child. But it was just me and her and my dad wasn’t around but … even if you are working, you still have to create opportunities to be engaged with your child,” Ward said. “That still has to be in place. It’s your responsibility to take care of your household, and it’s a responsibility to take care of your kids, but it’s also a responsibility to know what responsibilities your kids are responsible for and ensure that they actually (do those). I had a mom that was able to manage and balance that. And what I’ll also say is, we do have some parents in our communities that have demonstrated that you can work and actually take care of your kid’s social, educational and emotional needs. So I still feel like you still have to do that. You have a child, and you are responsible for the educational advancement of that kid along with the school system. It’s a partnership.”
Clarksville ISD resumed in-person education Monday, with students still taking lessons at home on Wednesdays.