HCS Adjusts Protocols in Response to Tennessee’s COVID-19 Omnibus Bill Updates
Posted on 11/16/2021
HCS Adjusts Protocols in Response to Tennessee’s COVID-19 Omnibus Bill Updates

Chattanooga, Tenn. (Nov. 15, 2021) -- Hamilton County Schools (HCS) has updated its COVID-19 protocols and guidance in accordance with the Tennessee State COVID-19 Omnibus Bill.

Governor Lee signed this Bill into law on November 12, 2021.

In order to comply with the Omnibus Bill, HCS lifted its mask requirement as of Monday, November 8. As of this date, no one is required to wear a mask; however, anyone who wishes to wear a mask may do so. This bill also limits the authority to determine quarantine and isolation requirements to the Tennessee Commissioner of Health. Therefore, HCS can no longer require anyone to quarantine under the authority of the local Hamilton County Health Department. At this point, only the state Commissioner of Health can require quarantine or isolation. Of course, the administration advises students and staff to stay home if they are feeling ill.

The district will continue to monitor county-wide COVID-19 data to determine if, at any point, schools can request a 14-day mask mandate in accordance with state law. If the state Commissioner of Health advises the district and/or the local health department to enforce quarantine or isolation periods, HCS administration will comply.

HCS will continue to contact trace when information is available and appropriate and will recommend quarantine and isolation for individuals identified as close contacts or that report a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.
District leadership encourages families and staff to continue communicating with their school and the HCS COVID Response Team when any individual tests positive for COVID-19. This practice will allow the response team to contact trace and inform families of any potential exposure.

“As we navigate these changes imposed by the state legislature regarding our COVID-19 response, we will maintain our focus on the education and overall wellbeing of our students," said Dr. Nakia Towns, Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent. "The updates included in the Omnibus Bill shift all decision-making authority away from local leaders. If anyone wants to express their opinion or make recommendations for future policy changes, they should contact our elected and appointed leaders at the state level.”

For more information regarding updated HCS COVID-19 Guidance, please contact Layra Navarro-Flores, HCS Community Health Manager, by email or phone at: 423-498-6761.

A few highlights of the Tennessee State COVID-19 Omnibus Bill which directly impact public schools statewide are:

  • Public School Districts are prohibited from mandating an individual receive a COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • Public School Districts are not able to mandate facial coverings unless multiple conditions are present, including a county wide rolling 14-day average of new COVID-19 infections exceeding 1,000 per 100,000 residents. 
  • A parent/guardian may request a reasonable accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act by submitting a written request. If the accommodation is granted, the school is required to place the person in an in-person educational setting with other individuals wearing a face mask. 
  • For purposes of COVID-19, a Public School District may no longer enforce an individual quarantine at any point. This authority will be left solely to the discretion of the Commissioner of Health.

HCS prioritizes the health and wellbeing of our students and staff, while also respecting parent choice and upholding the state's updated laws surrounding COVID-19 response protocols. We appreciate the community’s continued support, as we work to ensure that all children thrive and experience a future without limits.