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>

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

Education Coalition Calls for Mask Mandate

The Knox County Education Coalition released recommendations for returning to school amid COVID-19 and they include a requirement that students and staff wear face coverings while inside school buildings and on buses. Here’s more from WVLT:

The Knox County Education Coalition released an open letter on reopening recommendations for Knox County Schools Tuesday afternoon.

The open letter was addressed to the Superintendent, Knox County School Board, County and City Mayors and the Health Department.

The recommendations from the Education Coalition stated all students, teachers and staff should wear face coverings or masks on buses and inside buildings.

Knox County Schools will release its reopening plan on Wednesday.

MORE: https://www.wvlt.tv/2020/07/14/education-coalition-recommends-all-students-and-staff-wear-face-coverings/?fbclid=IwAR0E0FV_wmZnYDOzFfUinzH8R7vDVCRABDfMMLEGvsJpHRma36eoNzsHcF4

COVID’s Impact on School Budgets

It’s being felt in Knox County, as the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports:

Knox County Schools’ budget is expected to be down by $4.4 million for next school year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Around a third of the school district’s budget comes from sales tax revenue, which has dropped significantly because of COVID-19, said Ron McPherson, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer. In total, the district had to cut about $10 million in order to balance the budget, he said.

The projected budget for the 2021 fiscal year is $503.8 million, down from $506.7 million for the 2020 fiscal year, Superintendent Bob Thomas announced last week at a virtual community budget meeting. The school board will vote on the proposed budget on Wednesday.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

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