Gov. Bill Lee spoke by phone Wednesday with First Lady Melania Trump on a new task force to address children’s mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House said Penny Schwinn, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, also participated.
Lee told the First Lady about the state’s COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force. The group has a focus on whole child care, providing more than academic support to include mental and physical health and well-being. Lee and Schwinn talked about their successes in building strong partnerships between public, private, and non-profit groups so communities and local leaders have resources to care for children and families.
The First Lady spoke about the importance of ensuring the well-being of all children, including minority children who may face additional barriers to care, and Governor Lee and Commissioner Schwinn described how Tennessee is working to reduce barriers and using COVID-19 testing sites as an additional way to connect communities in need with other critical social services. Commissioner Schwinn also emphasized Tennessee’s commitment to finding innovative ways to care for children with disabilities during the pandemic.
The state education department said the task force will take a holistic approach to health and will check on kids’ welfare and encourage activities in the summer and fall.
By July 6, the group will report on the impact of school closures on kids and critical services. Later in July, they will provide guidance for doing child welfare checks for the summer and school season. By October, they will give suggestions for how communities may handle future school closures.
The Task Force will convene bi-monthly through June and July 2020, with monthly meetings August through December 2020.
School reopening guidance is here.
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Photo “Bill Lee” by Bill Lee.