TDOE to allow virtual learning waivers for schools, classrooms

Posted at 10:01 PM, Aug 27, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn said she will consider allowing a classroom or school to temporarily transition from in-person to remote learning.

Commissioner Schwinn made the announcement in a letter sent to directors of schools Friday.

The letter reads in part, "I will consider waivers of the provisions of Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. Chapters 0520-01-03 and 0520-01-13 related to remote instruction to the extent necessary to allow students affected at the classroom or school level by COVID-19 isolation or quarantine to participate in remote instruction. I will be using this waiver authority pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-1-201 in cases where districts can demonstrate and document COVID-related needs in their school communities that necessitate a temporary shift to remote instruction for classrooms or entire schools. This waiver process is not required for individual students on quarantine to receive remote instruction."

Schwinn continued stating the waivers are not entire districts and she expects the waivers to be "narrowly applied."

"I firmly believe in-person instruction is the best for kids, and there are proven strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While I want to provide common-sense flexibilities to administrators who are making every possible effort to ensure the continuation of in-person academic instruction, my expectation is that waivers will be narrowly applied to preserve in-person learning wherever practicable," Schwinn said in the letter to directors.

On Wednesday, Governor Bill Lee said during a briefing the state's goal is to keep children in schools.

A reporter asked if there are any plans to allow schools a virtual option. Gov. Lee responded saying, “We don’t have any plans to do that yet. We want to keep kids in school in person. Obviously, there are certain kids that leave as a result of quarantine or COVID cases, but the goal is to continue to keep those schools open for those who can go in person. There’s no plan to do otherwise.”

The letter was sent to directors the same day that Tennessee reported a total of 7,666 new COVID-19 cases. 2,391 of those cases were in school-age children - the second-highest number reported in kids.