Pandemic prompts closure of Dickson schools, notification for Springer parents

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

School districts in Carter County are already feeling the ongoing pandemic this academic year as parents begin to receive COVID-19 notifications about a week into the school year. While nearly three dozen students were potentially exposed to the disease in Springer this week, Dickson Public Schools on Friday announced their district would be closed through at least Labor Day. 

Dickson Superintendent Jeff Colclasure bluntly said why the school would be closed in a Friday morning statement on social media. 

“The last week has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students and staff testing positive for COVID-19. We are reaching a point where we cannot effectively staff the school to continue in-person learning,” Colclasure said. 

The closure comes a little more than a week after classes started on Aug. 11. Parents are still asked to monitor their children's health during the two-week move to distance learning and keep school officials informed of positive infections among students. 

“You can help us in our efforts by monitoring your children’s symptoms and isolating them from others if they have been exposed or tested positive. We need to be diligent in our efforts to slow the spread of infection so that we can return to school,” Colclasure said. 

The announcement to Dickson parents came one day after some parents at Springer Public Schools on Thursday were notified about potential exposure on campus. Superintendent Cynthia Hunter confirmed that a cohort including more than 30 students were exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19.  

Unlike Dickson which has a widespread move to distance learning, classes across the Springer district remain unaffected. Thursday’s notice to Springer parents offers further guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for families to determine if a student can make a safe and immediate return to campus.  

According to the letter, asymptomatic and fully vaccinated close contacts do not need to quarantine and can return to campus but should continue precautions like masks or testing. Unvaccinated close contacts are suggested to quarantine for at least seven days and have a negative test result, and those without symptoms will be welcomed back to campus on Aug. 27. 

Superintendent Cynthia Hunter on Friday confirmed the letter was sent to the parents of 33 students and said classrooms at the district remain otherwise open. The district resumed classes this year on Aug. 12. 

“Yes we are still open. That cohort group of students is the only group who has been affected so far,” Superintendent Cynthia Hunter said on Friday. 

Springer and Dickson schools experienced similar closures early in the previous academic year. About one week after Dickson schools announced two classes were impacted during the first week of classes in 2020, Springer schools moved to distance learning due to staffing issues.  

All schools in the county last year eventually saw some moves toward distance learning throughout the school year as the number of COVID-19 cases surged across the state.