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Trenton Director of Schools shares COVID-19 experience

By Crystal Burns


Trenton Special School District Director of Schools Tim Haney said COVID-19 has effectively kicked his butt.

In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Haney described his symptoms, quarantine, and how contracting the novel coronavirus will impact the way he speaks to parents, teachers, and staff about the district’s COVID-19 protocols.

Haney fell on June 25 and injured his right shoulder. He underwent surgery on July 14, where doctors had to do several things to make the necessary repairs.

“It was a big deal,” Haney said.

Doctors told him it would probably be five to six weeks before he could begin physical therapy.

Following his surgery, Haney blamed his weakness and fatigue on trying to do too much too early. He described July 19 as the worst day he’s ever had health-wise. On July 22, he was tested for COVID-19 and got his positive results a couple days later.

“It’s been a slow road back since,” Haney said.

His symptoms included fever, but he said that was never a big part of his illness, the loss of taste and smell, and a dry cough that still fatigues him. Haney has also dealt with a gastrointestinal element that some COVID-19 patients have described, although it isn’t one of the most recognized symptoms.

Haney said assertions from some that COVID-19 is like the flu are false.

“It’s not the flu,” he said. “I’ve had the flu, and this is not the flu.”

Haney was never hospitalized. He, his wife Cindy, and their son Gunner have quarantined at home. While his 14-day quarantine technically ended on Aug. 5, he will remain at home until Gunner’s quarantine wraps up. Gunner received his positive test about a week into the family’s initial quarantine.

Gunner, a sophomore at Peabody High School, missed his last two travel baseball tournaments, hasn’t been able to practice football, and will start the school year attending virtually – all things that have plagued his father.

“The melt-down moments I’ve had with Cindy have been about giving it to Gunner,” Haney said.

Cindy has shown no symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been tested.

The couple’s daughter, Elizabeth, is in pharmacy school in Memphis. She visited the family recently but stayed outside. Haney said she and her fiancé have been far more diligent about following COVID-19 protocols and haven’t had any brushes with the virus despite living in Shelby County and working in health care.

Haney said he’s never felt any stigma from having COVID-19 but said his diagnosis is a “predictable result of behavioral choices” he made. He said he wasn’t consistent in wearing a face mask in public, something he now says is non-negotiable as the virus continues to spread locally, across the state, and nationwide.

Haney said that while he can’t convince anyone of the science of wearing face masks and social distancing, he can make children follow the protocols in school. Students and all school employees will begin the school year wearing face masks.

“We’re going to do this correctly,” Haney said. “We’re going to follow the science. The science is the science, and the science is correct.”

Trenton schools started the new school year Monday on a staggered schedule that brings one grade into each school building each day through Friday, Aug. 14. All students will be back in their buildings Monday, Aug. 17. The district is offering a virtual option for families uncomfortable with sending their children back to school.

Haney has continued to work from home during his quarantine. He said that in conversations with administrators last week, principals and supervisors were pleased with the extra five days the school board agreed to give them to help prepare for virtual learning. School was originally scheduled to start Aug. 3.

“In conversations with my administrative team, it’s been a very good week in helping prepare for the virtual option,” Haney said. “It’s been very useful, and I appreciate our board doing it.”

Haney said he thinks Governor Bill Lee will let local officials make decisions about pulling the plug on in-person learning if local cases of COVID-19 hit a level of concern. He said Trenton is making a good faith effort to start school and provide safe, in-person learning, but leaders won’t wait to hit a critical mass with students to go to 100% virtual learning.

“We’re not playing games with the health of our kids,” he said. “We’re going to take care of our kids and our teachers.”

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