Research Showed One in Five Tennessee Public School Students in Six Districts Chronically Absent During Pandemic

Woman sitting alone with a mask on.

One in five Tennessee public school students from across six districts were chronically absent last year during the pandemic. Vanderbilt University’s Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) discovered this during a study of around 150,000 students across about 250 schools. They also discovered that the majority of chronic absenteeism cases occurred among English Learners, minority students, and economically disadvantaged students. The state classifies 10 percent or more of classes missed as chronic absence.

Nowhere did the report mention which six districts were studied. The Tennessee Star asked TERA spokespersons which districts they’d researched. They didn’t respond by press time. TERA noted that these districts’ chronic absenteeism rates have been climbing since 2018, but they’d jumped significantly last year with virtual learning.

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Albemarle County Schools to Offer Optional Virtual Learning Alongside In-Person Learning in 2021-2022

Alongside five-days-a-week in-person instruction, Albemarle County is planning to offer an optional all-virtual school for elementary, middle, and high school students for the 2021-2022 school year. The virtual school will have its own principal and teachers, according to an Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) press release.

“My recommendation will be that our school board approve this plan as the default unless, of course, circumstances materially change,” ACPS Superintendent Matthew Haas said in the press release.

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Virginia Department of Education Announces Guidelines for Reopening Schools

The Virginia Department of Education announced a new set of guidelines for school reopening, the result of a workgroup created in February. The guidelines include recommendations for remediating learning loss, note that virtual learning doesn’t work for every students, calls for special attention for vulnerable populations, and say that more staff may be needed to keep student-teacher ratios low.

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New Mission PAC Hosts GOP Gubernatorial Forum

GOP gubernatorial candidates Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña, and Glenn Youngkin met on Zoom on Thursday evening to answer policy questions about school reform, fixing Virginia’s tax code, improving broadband access, and making Virginia more veteran friendly. The New Mission PAC hosted the forum. PAC founder Daniel Gade and former Delegate Chris Saxman asked the questions in a format designed to allow candidates to demonstrate policy positions without engaging in direct debate.

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Delegate McNamara Sponsors Bill Allowing Schools to Replace Snow Days with Remote Learning Days

Delegate Joseph McNamara’s (R-Roanoke) HB 1790 will allow public schools to declare unscheduled remote learning days instead of snow days — but he’s not trying to eradicate snow days.

“I want kids to have snow days, and I want them to go out and build snowmen, and throw snow balls and have grilled cheese sandwiches,” he said. “I’ll use Roanoke County as an example. Several years back, they missed about 13 days of school in about a month and a half period. And when you have situations where you have ice in the mountains areas and kids can’t get back in to school for days sometimes, it’s not really a snow day. It’s a nasty, ugly day, and so this would give schools another opportunity.”

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Governor Northam Wants Virginia Schools to Provide In-Person Option by March 15

Governor Ralph Northam wants Virginia’s schools to provide in-person learning options by March 15, one year and two days after first ordering schools to close on March 13, 2020. On Friday, the governor sent a letter to school districts instructing them to provide in-person options and encouraged the schools to develop learning-loss mitigation strategies.

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Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Kirk Cox Calls for Next Steps to Address Learning Losses from Virtual Classes

Virginia’s Democratic leadership is finally starting to call for a return to in-person learning, but gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) is calling for immediate next steps to address learning losses caused by virtual learning. In a Thursday press conference, Cox laid out his proposals, including expanding availability of tutors, assessing learning loss, and providing financial support to parents for remedial materials.

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Metro Nashville School Board Member Fran Bush Discusses How Teachers Must Sit Back and Wait for Failed Leadership

Wednesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed all-star panelist and Metro School Board member Fran Bush to the studio to discuss how Nashville’s leadership has failed public school students and their parents.

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Henrico Public Schools Delays In-person Learning for All Grades Due to COVID-19 Numbers

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) on Tuesday announced that it is delaying in-person learning for all grade levels indefinitely because of local coronavirus numbers, just a week after pushing back the return to classrooms for elementary school students.

In an online message to families, Superintendent Amy Cashwell initially said the delay had to do with the school division’s nurses being pulled away from their regular duties to assist in administering vaccinations for teachers and other Virginians included within Phase 1b of the state’s plan.

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Bipartisan Group of Senators Call for Governor to Reopen Virginia’s Schools

Three Virginia state Senators called for Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday to reopen public schools across the Commonwealth and mandate in-person learning as an option for families struggling with virtual instruction. 

Just hours before the General Assembly kicked off its 2021 session, Senators Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) held a press conference to discuss the matter.

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Virginia Teachers Union President Calls for All-Virtual Learning Until School Staff get Vaccinated

Virginia Education Association (VEA) president James Fedderman wants public schools in the Commonwealth to go to fully virtual learning until teachers and school staff receive vaccinations to stop the spread coronavirus in schools.

Fedderman asked the governor and school leaders around the state to facilitate the instructional switch in a video published to the VEA website on Friday.

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COVID-19 Accelerates Harrisonburg City Schools Plan to Increase Outdoor Learning

COVID-19 is accelerating Harrisonburg City Schools’ push for more outdoor classrooms. At a school board meeting Tuesday, Superintendent Michael Richards said outdoor classrooms would provide more space for safe in-person classes. But Richards said the plan isn’t just a temporary plan to solve a problem caused by the pandemic.

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Henrico Public Schools Delay Return to In-Person Learning Because of COVID

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) announced on Tuesday that the division is delaying the return to in-person learning for pre-kindergarten and elementary school students until the end of January because of the area’s current COVID-19 numbers.

HCPS Superintendent Amy Cashwell made the announcement and discussed the subsequent changes to the timeline for returning to the classroom in an online message to families.

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Commentary: Zoom School Gets an ‘F,’ But Some Online Learning Providers Excel

Students in 40 percent of school districts across the country haven’t been inside a classroom since last spring, and others are now returning to virtual “Zoom school” as coronavirus cases rise. Remote public schooling as a response to school shutdowns has been a disaster for many children, with a record number of F grades issued this academic year. Both parents and kids are fed up with Zoom school, and teachers are frustrated with it as well. The Washington Post ran a headline this month saying we must finally admit that “remote education is a failure.”

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Arlington, Virginia Students Receiving More Failing Grades During Pandemic Than Before

Secondary students attending Arlington Public Schools (APS) are earning more failing grades during the coronavirus pandemic than in previous years, new data shows, further highlighting the negative impact virtual learning can have on certain students.

The data was presented in an internal report released online on Thursday that compared APS middle school and high school student’s quarter one grades from 2020-21 to quarter one grades from 2018-19 and 2019-20.

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Richmond Mom Accessed Explicit Content on School-Issued Virtual Learning Computer

Richmond Public Schools (RPS) has tightened content filtering restrictions on school computers after Janet Kelly discovered she could access explicit YouTube content on her elementary-aged son’s computer. Kelly is pleased that the school responded to her concerns, but she’s worried about long-term harms linked to having children in front of computers constantly for virtual learning.

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Virginia Parents Start a Petition Demanding for Williamsburg-James City County Students to Return to School

More than 500 people have signed an online petition created last week asking for students of Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCCPS) to be allowed to return to classes on January 12.

“The devastating impact “virtual learning” has had on some students and parents alike can no longer be ignored and it is time for the WJCC School Board to address these concerns. Many schools in Virginia and around the Country have remained open while following CDC guidelines and it is time for WJCC schools to follow suit,” Joseph Nickerson said on the Moveon.org petition he created.

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Virginia Teachers Union Calls for Statewide Virtual Instruction Until Mid-January

The Virginia Education Association (VEA) is calling for all public schools in the Commonwealth to switch to virtual instruction for the next month because of the recent rise in COVID-19 numbers throughout the state. 

VEA President Dr. James Fedderman issued the statement online Thursday. 

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No In-Person Classes in Virginia’s Capital: Richmond Public Schools to Remain Virtual for Spring Semester

Richmond Public Schools (RPS) will continue with virtual learning only for the rest of the 2020-21 academic year.

During a Monday night meeting, the RPS School Board voted 8-1 to keep students away from the classroom for another several months after Superintendent Jason Kamras gave a presentation and recommended the school district remain virtual.

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Metro Nashville Schools Sending All Students to Distance-Learning After Thanksgiving

Citing the “the alarming increase in the spread of COVID-19,” Metro Nashville Public Schools will move all students to distance-learning after the Thanksgiving break.

The district on Monday evening tweeted, “Metro Schools is returning to all-virtual learning following the Thanksgiving break on November 30 through the end of the semester, December 17.”

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After Teacher ‘Sick-Out’ Fizzles, Students Return to In-Person Learning in Chesterfield County

An anticipated organized ‘sick-out’ by Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) teachers did not develop Monday, as the last cohort of students returned to in-person classes. This week, grades 6-12 are entering a hybrid in-person program where students are in-person two days a week, according to documentation from the school board. Younger students have already returned. Parents were given the choice to opt-in to the hybrid program.

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Kamras ‘Not Optimistic’ About Reopening Richmond Schools

Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Jason Kamras told reporters that he doesn’t expect RPS to reopen even after winter break, unlike Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, according to reporting from WTVR. The two neighboring counties recently announced plans to begin allowing students back into classes as soon as November.

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Henrico Public Schools Adopt Return to Classes Plan, Say Families Must Make Year-long Commitment

The Henrico County School Board adopted a plan last week allowing an optional return to classrooms for younger students later this fall and older students in early 2021, but at a town hall meeting on Tuesday school leaders said whichever choice families make, either virtual or in-person learning, will be a year-long commitment.

While answering submitted questions from parents, Dr. Thomas Ferrell Jr., Henrico director of high school education, brought up the stipulation that families’ choice of learning model would be binding, except for specific instances.

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Henrico Parents Demand Kids Go Back to School

After polling parents and holding a public forum, the Henrico County School Board voted 4-1 Thursday for an optional plan to allow in-person learning. The phased approach will allow Pre-K through 2nd grade students to return to school four days a week starting November 30. Grades 3-5 would return on December 7, and older students will return in February.

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Virtual Learning Workload Overwhelms Loudoun County Students

Citing overwhelming virtual education workloads, over 13,000 people have signed a change.org petition asking Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) to reduce the amount of work the students have to do. Unlike school districts in other parts of the states, LCPS is still using a fully virtual model, driving some parents to private schools.

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Newport News Public Schools Superintendent Delays Students’ Return to Classrooms

The Newport News Public Schools (NNPS) superintendent George Parker announced Tuesday that he was postponing the plan that would have brought students back to the classroom for the first time since March.

The delay comes after the Newport News School Board voted 5-2 during its meeting last week to allow for a phased return to in-person instruction for K-12 students.

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Parents Fume Over Kids Turning into Zoom Zombies

The Richmond Public Schools (RPS) leadership team presented initial schedule adjustments for all grade levels to its school board during a meeting Monday night. 

The board did not vote to adopt any of the proposed scheduling adjustments. 

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Zoom Wars: Loudoun, Fairfax County Public Schools Battling Internet Security Attacks, Including Porn

Two northern Virginia school districts struggled with internet security problems in their first week.

Loudoun County Public Schools’  LCPS) virtual learning was interrupted by ten cases of people logging into classes and using racial slurs or displaying pornographic and racist imagery, according to reporting by WUSA 9.  Also last week, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) announced that they are the victims of a ransomware attack.

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Truancy Letters Sent to Parents of Virtual Learners Should Be ‘Thrown in the Trash,’ Metro Nashville School Board Member Fran Bush Says

Metro Nashville reportedly sent nearly 6,000 truancy letters to the parents of students doing virtual learning, and one school board member says that is wrong and the letters should be “thrown in the trash.”

School Board member Fran Bush made the comment to The Tennessee Star on Sunday.

MNPS sent the truancy letters because of poor student attendance in distance learning, NewsChannel 5 said. The letters threaten legal action against parents or guardians of students who have five or more unexcused absences.

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Leahy on The Tennessee Star Report Tuesday Morning: MNPS District Six School Board Member Posts Truth to Facebook About Schools Reopening and Sports Resuming

Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report host Michael Patrick Leahy discussed a recent Facebook post by school board member Fran Bush criticizing Metro Public school’s refusal to resume in-person learning and sports.

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VSU Will Keep Classes Online for the Fall Semester due to COVID-19 Concerns

Virginia State University (VSU) will keep all classes online and cancel student move-in because of COVID-19 concerns as more and more colleges continue to experience outbreaks across the country.

In a video and letter released Monday, VSU President Makola Abdullah announced the decision and explained the reasoning behind the difficult choice.

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Ohio’s Largest School District Will Start the School Year Online

Columbus City Schools (CCS) Superintendent/CEO Dr. Talisa Dixon announced Tuesday that Ohio’s largest school district will start the 2020-2021 school year virtually.

CCS will be online for the first quarter for the next school year. The first quarter of the school year will start September 8 and end October 27.

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