NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After severe tornado damage and the COVID-19 outbreak in Tennessee, state lawmakers unanimously passed a bill to help students and teachers get through the school year. The measure drops end-of-course TNReady testing and waives the requirement of 180 classroom instruction days for the 2019-2020 school year.
Senate Bill No. 2672 was filed Tuesday - the same day Governor Bill Lee announced that 100% of school districts are expected to be closed by the end of the week and will remain closed until the end of the month due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Earlier in the month, tornadoes ripped through Middle Tennessee, killing 25 and destroying thousands of structures including schools. Wilson County, Stoner Creek Elementary School and West Wilson Middle School, were damaged beyond repair in the storms.
Because of the tornado impacts and the fact that "the health and safety risks to Tennesseans from COVID-19 are not yet fully understood and may necessitate school closures beyond March 31, 2020...," lawmakers filed the bill to ease the burdens on public schools. The bill ensures that no school district, school, district employee or teacher is adversely impacted by school closures, student absenteeism or other hardships related to COVID-19 and the tornadoes.
The bill also covers the following:
- Drops requirement of 11th-graders to take an exam to assess their readiness for college
- Drops requirement high school students passing a civics test to graduate
- Ensures districts receive full state funding for the school year, even if students cannot be present
- Require the state Board of Education to revise requirements so that no senior who is on track and eligible would be prevented from graduating on time because of school closings.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn released the following statement regarding the passage:
“These are challenging times for all of us. I appreciate the opportunity to work with the Governor’s Office and legislative leaders to craft this amendment so that no student, educator, or school will be adversely affected due to the loss of instructional time caused by tornadoes and the coronavirus pandemic.
The priority must be to enact response measures to protect the health and safety of all Tennesseans. The Department is continuing to work with district leaders as they support their students, teachers, and staff during these closures. Thank you to the General Assembly for quickly addressing this issue and providing clarity to our educators and families.”