Metro Schools to begin school year remotely as COVID-19 cases surge

Virtual learning to continue through Labor Day
MNPS exterior.jpg
Posted at 7:36 AM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 13:49:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Nashville Public Schools will open virtually on August 4th as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. The remote learning plan will continue until at least Labor Day, September 7th.

Watch the full briefing below:

Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle said earlier this month that they'd hoped students would be able to return to class on August 4th. However, she said they had also been preparing for the possibility that it wouldn't happen.

“This decision was not made lightly, but the risks to the health and safety of students and staff are too great at this moment for us to begin the school year with in-classroom instruction,” said Dr. Battle. “I am confident that our teachers and support staff will be up to the challenge of providing a great education that meets the academic and social-emotional needs of our students in a virtual learning environment.”

Battle said the virtual learning program will be school-based, meaning students will be connecting with teachers at their school of enrollment. On July 14, the Board will consider a contract with the Florida Virtual School to provide a virtual learning curriculum that has "achieved proven results serving students in an online environment."

MNPS officials said it will prepare up to 44,000 devices for students to use for remote learning. They expect 32,000 students will need a district-provided device. They said 17,000 hotspots have been ordered and will be offered to families who need internet access. MNPS has also ordered additional laptops, with 20,000 scheduled to arrive by the end of August.

On August 4, the virtual learning program will be greatly expanded from what was offered at the end of the school year:

  • "Assignments will be graded."
  • "Tests will be given."
  • "Attendance will be required and tracked."
  • "Teachers will be required to offer a certain number of hours each week for live classrooms, open office hours, and individualized learning support."
  • "Curriculum will be consistent across schools and based on a proven virtual school program."
  • "Schoology will be the platform used by teachers and students to provide access to homework, tests, and lessons that students can access at their own pace (known as asynchronous learning)."
  • "There will be an extensive focus on social-emotional supports for teachers and school staff, who will then support students’ social-emotional and academic needs with regular, personalized check-ins."
  • "For each child with disabilities, we are developing a COVID-19 Continuous Learning Individualized Plan (CLIP). The CLIP will identify how MNPS will implement the services and supports in your child's lEP or Section 504 Plan in a virtual setting."

The district also said it used funds from the CARES Act to purchase PPE for students and teachers when schools reopen, including 1.5 million disposable masks for students, 20,000 disposable masks for staff, gloves, sanitizer, and enhanced PPE for staff interacting with students with symptoms of COVID-19.

The state is expected to provide masks and thermometers. MNPS said it's also receiving donations of face shields for teachers.

Once students can safely return, MNPS said they will implement the following policies:

  • "Parents will be asked to check temperatures of students and monitor health symptoms prior to sending them to school."
  • "Staff will have temperature and symptom checks each morning when entering school."
  • "Students and teachers will be provided masks and will be required to wear them."
  • "Social distancing measures will be taken to reduce crowding and large groups of students."
  • "Due to classroom configurations, six feet of distance between desks will not often be feasible, but desks will be spaced as much as possible and facing in one direction."
  • "Buses will have assigned seats, and students will be limited to two per seat. Drivers will disinfect the seats after morning and afternoon runs."
  • "Sanitizer stations will be available in schools, and students and staff will be asked to wash their hands at regular intervals."
  • "Custodial staff will be responsible for wiping down touchpoints in common areas such as doorknobs and cafeterias. Custodians are contractually obligated to wipe down desks and classroom tables each night. Classrooms, during daily usage, will be the responsibility of teachers and/or designated students in the classroom for wiping down desks, seats, and shared classroom materials in-between uses."

Starting next week, families who need a device can fill out a form requesting one. If they can’t make it to their school to pick up the device, it can be delivered to your home.

Metro Schools has provided more information on its website.

Mayor John Cooper asked that everyone continue to wear masks to help get kids back to school.

"To get us back to school in person, please wear a mask and practice social distancing. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can re-open the way that we all want to. I appreciate that Dr. Battle and the School Board are making decisions for the safety of students and teachers," said Mayor Cooper.

Nashville charter schools are included in the plan to begin the 2020-21 school year remotely. In response, the Nashville Charter Collaborative released the following statement in response.

“Even the best distance learning program lacks some of the benefits of in-person school, but because our schools prioritized technology acquisition in the spring, in combination with devices that schools will be receiving from the CARES Act, nearly every student enrolled in a Nashville charter public school will start the school year with a Chromebook or similar device in their home. Earlier this year, immediately after the onset of pandemic-related school closures, our schools were engaging in live virtual instruction, social-emotional support for students, and case management for families hardest hit economically by this pandemic. With nearly two months of successful distance learning under our belts, we feel confident that we can continue the momentum our teachers built, and keep our students thriving during this challenging season. Each of our member schools is committed to continue tailoring distance learning and wrap-around support programs to meet the specific needs of the families they serve.”
Nashville Charter Collaborative

Statewide, re-opening plans will vary by district and on a case-by-case basis. The state said all schools must submit a plan to them by July 24 if they want to continue any form of online learning.