A COVID-19 Delay

The Tennessee Education Association is calling for a statewide delay in reopening schools because of the current levels of COVID-19 infection rates.

Here’s more from a press release:

Recent COVID-19 data does not support reopening school buildings and the resumption of in-person instruction in any part of the state. No system should make the decision to reopen school buildings, and where in-person instruction has begun, it should be suspended by the local district.  

The resumption of in-person instruction is a local decision, as it should be. However, directors and school boards who do not have local health departments with expertise in virus transmission rely on the state, and the state has refused to set thresholds when school buildings must remain closed due to new virus infections

TEA references a Harvard School of Public Health research-based guidelines on school building reopening and the resumption of in-person instruction. Any new case rate over 25 indicates no in-person instruction should resume.

Today 55 of 95 Tennessee counties have more than 25 new cases daily over the past 14 daysAnother 17 counties are ­­above 20 cases with increasing rates in new infections that indicate they will be above 25 if current trends continue.

Yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx, chief national advisor on the pandemic, said if there are high caseload and active community spread, federal officials are asking people to distance learn at this moment to get the epidemic under control. Birx also said in Nashville last week that rural infection rates are likely far higher that what is reported. 

“Every school system should delay reopening of school buildings and begin the school year via distance learning, and if school buildings have reopened they should be closed. Unlike other states, the governor and commissioner cannot mandate school openings nor penalize districts for delay. This is a local decision and we are putting out virus data to show there is no sound decision on resuming in-person instruction in Tennessee,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “Educators want to get back to in-person instruction. However, it is prudent and not contrary to Tennessee law to delay reopening school buildings for the next several weeks, when hopefully the data shows new infections have slowed. Parents and educators should demand this delay and hopefully can use the framework we rely on to inform their local school officials.”

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Are You Ready for Some Football?

Gov. Bill Lee certainly is. He signed an executive order today allowing contact sports like football to resume when school does.

He also says schools should reopen for in-person learning except in the most “extreme” circumstances.

No word yet on what the acceptable level of student or teacher COVID-19 cases is… or how many have to be sick (or even die) before the situation is labeled extreme by Gov. Lee.

And then there’s this news:

Back to School, Back to COVID

Alcoa City Schools returned to class last Wednesday and by Friday had announced their first positive case of COVID-19.

WBIR has more:

https://www.wbir.com/article/news/education/alcoa-city-schools-notifies-parents-of-covid-19-case-in-alcoa-middle-school/51-da956a97-1fda-4592-bde8-a584e1182df1

Meanwhile, Wilson County Schools has pushed back the first day of school from August 3rd to August 17th in order to have more time to plan for reopening in light of the pandemic.

Prognosis: Medium

Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden announced today his district will open on August 7th under the so-called “medium spread” protocol for COVID-19. This will be in place for at least the first two weeks.

The medium protocol means students in grades K-2 will report to school campuses while students in grades 3-12 will participate in remote learning. The move comes amid a growing number of cases in Williamson County and the middle Tennessee region.

Additionally, NewsChannel5’s Phil Williams today published data on the number of children ages 5-18 with cases of COVID-19. Six of the top ten counties in the state are in middle Tennessee, and Williamson is among them.

Here’s the breakdown:

And here’s the full story from Williams:

https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/7-572-school-age-children-diagnosed-with-covid-19-in-tennessee-new-data-shows

Bill Lee Says NO

Williamson County School Board member Rick Wimberly reports that Gov. Bill Lee has denied the district’s request to #CancelTNReady and to allow flexibility on the length of the school year and the hours in the school day.

The Governor has turned down Williamson’s County’s requests for waivers on state testing, school day length, and school year. I hope he’ll reconsider. #wcsb

Posted by Rick Wimberly Williamson Co School Board, District 9 on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Here’s the story of the original request:

Lives on the Line

Tiffany Crow, a Shelby County teacher, parent, and COVID survivor, shared her story with TN Holler. Here’s some of what she had to say:

     As schools across the nation prepare for the upcoming school year (whether it be in person, hybrid, or completely virtual) teachers and families are writhing in agony with a sense of impending doom. One minute, we hear from superintendents and elected officials that we will be following data and “science” in efforts to plan for the upcoming year, and the next, we are being threatened with reduced funding and told that we will be going back to school buildings, in person, regardless of climbing case numbers, increasing death rates, and individuals being left with lifelong residual health issues from a virus that we still know so little about.

Teachers across the nation are preparing for the worst. We are finalizing wills, upping our disability insurance, and maxing out on life insurance benefits. Many teachers are already purchasing PPE, cleaning products, plexiglass dividers, and other band-aid solutions to the astronomical catastrophe that awaits upon school re-entry.

Read her entire letter>

Waive Bye to TNReady

Sumner County seems likely to join a growing list of Tennessee school districts asking the state to waive TNReady and teacher evaluation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Board member Ted Wise posted his thoughts ahead of the vote tomorrow night:

In my twelve years on the school board, I have been guided by one statement, FOR THE CHILDREN!

As we face COVID together, it is important that our teachers and principals can focus on the needs of our children. Now is not the time to worry about high stakes tests or completing evaluations.

Our children deserve our best during these times. Our teachers and principals work tirelessly to help them. Let’s work together to take the burden off of our teachers and principals.

Our Board will vote on Tuesday to ask the state to waive high stakes testing for this school year.

I will vote on Tuesday night to do what I have always tried to do on our school board, support our children, our teachers, and our principals.

Will Gov. Lee and Commissioner Schwinn take action?

Waiver Request

Williamson County School Board member Eric Welch took to Facebook to announce the district is asking Gov. Bill Lee to waive TNReady testing requirements as well the 180 day attendance and 6.5 hour instructional day mandates.

Here’s the post:

Superintendent Golden has submitted a letter to Governor Bill Lee formally requesting waivers of certain statutory requirements for the 2020-21 school year.

Williamson County Schools is urging Gov. Lee to ensure that the district, schools, teachers and students are held harmless from testing requirements and accountability measures and to waive TCAP tests, Including but not limited to TNReady assessments, English learner assessments, alternate TCAP assessments, and EOC exams.

WCS requests a waiver of the 180 days of classroom instruction requirement. We recognize many students may need to be absent due to quarantine or illness, and we may find it to be in the best interest of the students and families to shorten the school year.

WCS also requests a waiver of the 6.5 hours instructional time each academic day. WCS can continue to provide rigorous education while teaching scope & sequence without requiring teachers and students meet in a remote setting for 6.5 hours each academic day.

WCS Parents, other Williamson County residents and Tennesseans across our great state that have an opinion on this matter and wish to share it with Governor Lee may do so through his office at:
https://www.tn.gov/governor/contact-us.html

Almost Inevitable

That’s how Tennessee’s Commissioner of Health describes the likelihood of COVID-19 infections in Tennessee’s schools as districts across the state prepare to resume classes in a few weeks.

Fox 17 in Nashville has more:

Like many Tennessee parents, Dr. Piercey works hours away from her home. She believes it’s “almost inevitable” that COVID-19 will creep into schools, so this school year is about predictability for her.

“I want them to prioritize in classroom instruction,” Dr. Piercey said. “Another thing that’s important to me is I want there to be in my children’s school and in every school, a systematic methodology of what to do when things happen. Let me guarantee you, things are going to happen. There are going to be infections in the school, whether it’s students or staff or both. It’s almost inevitable.” 

MORE> https://fox17.com/news/local/tennessee-health-commissioner-its-almost-inevitable-covid-19-will-infect-schools?fbclid=IwAR1CsnPYPXGYNYP2q-A9SI6iWEWCAK44PI8gklpnm4UQQVMeg2pd-N6m_7c

Disclaimer

At least one Tennessee school district is asking parents to sign a waiver of liability for any issues arising from COVID-19. Here’s that document:

UPDATE: In a tweet, Dr. Tim Parrott, Anderson County Director of Schools, says the disclaimer is ONLY for athletic participation in the summer while school is not in session.

PARROTT:

Not everything on social media is the truth. The waiver you have referenced was only for ATHLETICS during the time that schools are not in session in the summer. It has never been part of the plan to have any student or staff member sign the waiver to attend school.

What is your district doing? Have you been asked to sign a waiver? Let me know at andy@tnedreport.com.