Friday night lights are on in Tennessee with mixed response across the state

The Volunteer State loves football, and this past weekend was the kick-off of the high school season in Tennessee. Getting its nickname from sending 1,500 volunteer soldiers to the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, the state is living up to the moniker to take a chance against COVID-19. As many as 120 games were on the docket under regulations from the TSSAA (Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association). Fox17 of Nashville reported, “TSSAA has modified its sports regulations to include temperature check requirements for players, coaches, and fans, proper screening questions to gauge any COVID-19 symptoms, and limiting fans to allow for social distancing. Fans are also required to wear face masks.”

Communities have mixed responses about the guidelines

Response to the TSSAA’s regulations is mixed when it comes to social distancing and wearing masks. Phil Williams, a reporter from News Channel 5 Nashville, posted on Facebook a viewer image from the Gallatin-Lebanon football game in Middle Tennessee. “No masks, on sidelines…. There’s very little social distancing on either side. I don’t see football and school staying in session with this going on.”?

tennessee football game
Screenshot of Facebook post from Phil Williams of News Channel 5 from a football game in Tennessee on August 21, 2020.

Hundreds of people commented that it will be 2 to 3 weeks before the season and schools are shut down, that parents are risking their children’s lives. Others said that kids will be kids and to let them enjoy themselves, not to ruin their senior year. Like most polarizing social media posts, the comments resulted in insulting memes, and accusations tossed back and forth between strangers.

About an hour east of Nashville in Putnam County, Cookeville hosted a weekend of grid-iron starting Thursday evening, as shown in this photo from the Tennessean.

Read Also: As many schools have already opened across the state, some are doing distance-learning and some are trying a hybrid approach

Image: The Tennessean. Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee, football game on August 20, 2020.

In West Tennessee, the trend continues at the Huntingdon versus McKenzie football game where adults in the bleachers stay apart while teenage fans huddle together to cheer on their players.

Good news for Nashville Catholic schools so far

Parents within the Catholic school community of Nashville say that their kids do not want to attend Saturday school detention, which is the method of punishment at Father Ryan High School (FRHS) when masks are brought down below the nose or social distancing is not observed during the school day. They do see challenges with class changes in the hallways, but so far, no cases have been reported in the first 2 weeks that school has been in session.

Parents report that the Friday night football game for FRHS carried the same sentiment. It could be heard multiple times over the stadium speakers to warn parents and students of social distancing and mask-wearing. With a limited number of reservations available for attendees, the school was able to provide enough space to abide by the safety guidelines for spectators.

Image: Father Ryan High School of Nashville’s website.

Tennessee wastes no time adopting new federal guidelines designating teachers as essential workers

With over 2,000 kids testing positive across the state in the first two weeks of schools reopening, Governor Bill Lee released new guidelines for Tennessee teachers to return to school even if they are exposed to the virus. This comes from the latest federal guidance that deems teachers as “critical infrastructure workers” and CDC Director, Robert Redfield saying, “We are beginning to turn the tide on what I call the Southern outbreak in the nation.”

By officially declaring teachers as essential workers in Tennessee, much like healthcare workers, districts that adopt this policy can require teachers to report in person. There are stipulations involved if a school district chooses to follow these guidelines of making teachers essential workers:

  • The school district must report its decision to the Tennessee Department of Education.
  • The teacher must not be showing symptoms.
  • All individuals are required to wear face coverings or masks, including students above 2nd grade.
  • Social distancing must be enforced.
  • Mass gatherings sponsored by the schools are not allowed.

Will Tennessee’s experiment work?

With some school districts across the state opting to designate teachers as essential workers under the new federal guidelines, time will tell if current behaviors, such as the mixture seen at football games, make it possible to succeed in keeping schools open and protecting the community in the coming weeks.

Sally Hendrick of Shout Your Cause is a Nashville based statistician with a 25-year background in actuarial science. She loves to travel with her family while keeping a finger on the pulse of U.S. politics. Sally also runs her own Facebook ads agency, enjoys writing, art, culture, music, and languages.

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