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.
Chalkbeat is tracking requests from school districts to waive various state mandates for the upcoming school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wanting flexibility for a school year of uncertainty, more than half of Tennessee districts have asked for one-year waivers to state mandates ranging from duty-free lunch periods for teachers to new physical education requirements for students.
Hundreds of waiver requests have already been submitted by 79 school systems to the Tennessee Department of Education. More are expected in the coming months as schools reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first round of requests will be considered on Friday by the state Board of Education. That vote will offer an early glimpse of how far Tennessee will go to help schools navigate COVID-19 at the expense of statewide policies aimed at improving the quality of public education.
It seems worth noting that of the requests on the agenda Friday, only one includes TNReady testing. The recommendation of State Board of Education staff is to deny that request. Some districts, like Williamson County, have appealed directly to Gov. Bill Lee for relief on the testing front.
Nashville education blogger TC Weber came out strong this week with a compelling argument that the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing an evolution in public education. His central premise: schools aren’t going back to “normal” after the crisis passes. Here’s a nice summary from his post:
My main point here is that if a district is treating its reopening plan as simply crisis management, and failing to adequately consider future implications, they are leaving themselves at a serious disadvantage. The time for crisis management was back in the Spring, we have since moved into the realm of evolution, and participation is not an option. If LEAs don’t develop their own future policies and protocols, others – including parents – will do it for them. The world ain’t returning to a shape that we are familiar with and the only option is to embrace and try to positively impact the future.
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?
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
Tennessee’s funding formula for schools, the BEP, is going to trial next year. Chalkbeat reports that a Nashville judge has scheduled a trial in case claiming the state funding formula is inadequate. That trial is set for October 2021.
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle set the long-awaited trial date during a conference call last week with attorneys in the case. The litigation pits school districts in Memphis and Nashville against the state over whether Tennessee allocates enough money for K-12 education, especially for its urban students.
The trial’s outcome could have major implications for how Tennessee public schools are funded. If successful, the case could force the state to invest more in K-12 education, which already consumes about $6.5 billion of the state’s $39.6 billion budget.
Metro Nashville Public Schools has already announced plans to start school completely online. Now, the district has confirmed it will use the curriculum of the Florida Virtual School for the entire year. More from Fox17:
Metro Schools confirmed that students will use the Florida Virtual School curriculum during the entire 2020-21 school year.
“Will students use the Florida Virtual School curriculum all year? Yes,” Metro Schools tweeted. “K-12 students will use the Florida Virtual School curriculum for online classes as well as for in-person classes when it is safe to return.”
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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teachers: They are “essential employees” but just aren’t worth giving a raise. That’s the message from Maryville as reported in a recent article in the Daily Times.
Maryville’s reopening plan designates all staff members “essential critical workers” and allows them to continue working following a potential COVID-19 exposure if they are asymptomatic and follow guidelines such as wearing a face covering for 14 days.
Winstead said that the provision is designed to allow schools to operate with enough staff if there is exposure to a child with the coronavirus.
But also note:
Faced with funding and other uncertainties as classes are about to resume for the first time since the pandemic, the Maryville Board of Education voted Monday, July 13, to rescind a planned raise and spend about $128,000 to disinfect buildings.
The article notes the raise was cut as a result of the state reducing salary funds to the district. At Gov. Lee’s urging, the General Assembly eliminated all salary increase funds from the BEP (the state funding formula for schools).