NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Metro Nashville Public Schools students returned to class Tuesday with updated COVID safety protocols in place for the start of the new school year.

In a reversal from the district's original plan for the start of the 2021-22 school year, students and staff are now required to wear masks inside school buildings and facilities.

The updated mask policy was put in place on August 5, following a rise in COVID-19 cases in Middle Tennessee. Students are expected to adhere to the Metro Schools student handbook, maintain social distancing guidelines and wear a mask while inside. 

“It’s been helpful for her to go back and be safe with the mask and everything so I’m happy about that,” MNPS parent Brittany Welch said. 

Welch is one of the parents glad that MNPS reinstated a mask requirement.

“You never can be too sure about things you know, and I think it’s great,” Welch said. “Maybe throughout the year we’ll be able to drop them but I think it’s smart they’re doing it this way so everybody will be safe.”

Metro Schools says students not following COVID protocol will be subject to face the following discipline: 

  • 1st Offense - Conference with student emphasizing the COVID safety protocols 
  • 2nd Offense - Conference with parent or guardian
  • 3rd Offense - Possible suspension or expulsion
  • 4th Offense - Reckless Endangerment

Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle said the schools need to leverage all mitigation strategies possible. 

“When we’re talking about keeping students in an in-person learning environment, we need to do the best we can to protect them," Battle said. 

She added the protocols will hopefully help the district return to normal. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated so much of our lives over the last year and a half and it isn’t over yet," Dr. Battle said. "That’s why we need to take some common sense precautions like wearing masks, social distancing when possible, and getting the COVID vaccine when it is available to us so that we can return to a sense of normal.”

With masks now mandated in Metro Schools, Tennessee lawmakers could potentially hold a special session to punish local districts for issuing mandates. 

Governor Lee said a special session could potentially happen, with the possibility not "off the table." 

“A parent knows best about their own individual child and what’s best for them. So, what I would encourage, and I have encouraged school districts to do this," Lee said. "If they need to listen to their parents. And the way our state, the laws in this state, are set up school districts have the authority to make those decisions.”

"What I’ve heard from the governor, from the commissioner of health, from our commissioner of education is that all of the policies regarding how we’re going to mitigate the spread of the virus in our school system should be left up to our local school boards," Battle said. "And so I would encourage our local school boards, our LEAs to be empowered to make the best decisions for our local context.”

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