NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Students at Metro Nashville Schools will start the academic year by learning remotely, due to recent COVID-19 trends. 

Students at Metro Nashville Public Schools will learn in "a virtual setting" from August 4 until Labor Day, September 7. At that time, the district will reassess the virtual learning program and have a plan for going back into the buildings.

Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle made the announcement official on Thursday afternoon. She said her 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,” Battle said in a statement on Thursday. 

Battle said there were a number of factors in making her decision including the spread of COVID-19 and the fact that Nashville rolled back to Phase Two in its reopening plan. 

“Given the context of MNPS, with such a large and diverse number of students, teachers, and facilities, waiting a little longer before returning students to the classroom is the right decision based on the health care data we are seeing right now,” Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the Metro Coronavirus Taskforce, said in a statement on Thursday.

Metro district leaders are giving every family a hot spot and tablets to learn remotely, especially since not every home has WIFI. The hot spots are funded in part from the Metro Government’s CARES Act and 20,000 laptops are scheduled to arrive by the end of August. 

“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. 

Thursday's news comes after Davidson County reported the highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

“We hope to see our numbers drop in the next few weeks based on the policies we’ve put in place during the last two weeks, but that will only happen if members of our community take this virus seriously and practice social distancing and wear masks to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19," Jahangir said. 

The Metro Public Health Department reported 688 new COVID-19 cases, raising the county's total to 13,440. Of the 688 new cases, the health department said 172 of the positive results came from a backlog of cases from mid to late June. The health department is now working with a new lab and expects to eliminate or significantly reduce future reporting delays.

Starting on August 4, school leaders said the virtual learning program will not be voluntary and "greatly expanded" from the one launched in April 2020. It will include the following items: 

  • 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.

Battle also talked about how students will not just sit and watch a lecture or video of their teachers for six hours straight.

"There will be a healthy mix of classroom experience where students will interact with their teachers and peers in real time and will have a synchronous learning experiences were students will be able to work at their own pace to complete the task and assignments required of them," Battle said. 

On July 14, Metro Schools 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."

The portal used will be “schoolology" that’s where students will access homework, tests, and other lessons. To learn more about “schoolology," click here. 

When kids can finally enter their school buildings again, Dr. Battle said virtual class will be optional.

"For some, this will be a burden that they don’t want to endure. For others, it will still not be enough to make families and students feel comfortable about returning to school," Battle said. "That’s why we’re in a place to allow students back in the classrooms, will still maintain an option for students to learn virtually from home."

News 4 talked to the State’s Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn yesterday about virtual learning. Parents have concerns about it being effective, especially younger kids learning to read.

She says they’re suggesting districts to prioritize in person learning for younger grades, but the state is also working on how they can build early literacy in remote environments.

To watch the full announcement, click here or here. 

 
 

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