Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said at a press conference Wednesday that, per his recommendation, the state’s public schools will remain closed through the end of this current school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, meanwhile, said schools would reopen for the next school year and that students will enter their new grades.
Lee said he had asked Schwinn to convene a COVID-19 Child Well-Being Task Force. Lee said that task force would support state and local leaders and local communities as they help students after their extended time away from their classrooms.
“We want to make sure that there is flexibility for districts all across the state as they have critical year-end activities that they need to complete and to begin, in fact, preparing for next year. This pandemic has created many challenges for families and for teachers and for students. Classroom time has been lost. Students have lost a significant amount of learning time, and we are committed to continuing to provide resources that will keep our students engaged over the next several weeks,” Lee said.
“We have talked at length at previous briefings about those initiatives that we put in place to make sure that academics continue in our state, but time lost in the classroom also has implications beyond academics. Those implications are often the well-being of children. Schools and teachers are often the front lines in caring for students, particularly those that are in difficult situations, those that are most vulnerable, those that are most at-risk. As a state it will take all of us to ensure the safety and the well-being of our children here in the time that they are not in the structured environment of a classroom.”
Schwinn, meanwhile, said this long-term school closure affects students’ safety and well-being.
“In recent weeks we’ve been inspired by the ways our communities have come together to solve tough challenges and support one another. Schools have been working together with local partners, churches, volunteers, school-site staff and more to deliver meals, instructional lessons, and work packets to students,” Schwinn said.
“Policeman have been checking on students in their homes. Non-profits are stepping up with critical supplies and supports now more than ever before. And we know our teachers, our principals, and our superintendents are working hard to support our kids every single day.”
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