NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The governor has released the new state guidance for school districts including a 10-day sick window and 14-day quarantine as well as resuming contact sports. 

Gov. Bill Lee said he prefers students learning in-person.

"These months have been especially cruel to students and children. And if we're not careful. we stand to have a generation of kids who'll have to fend for," Lee said. 

Lee reiterated in-person learning was the "best option." 

"We also believe that districts should open on time and that planned delays should be reserved for only the most extreme situations," Lee said. 

The governor also said parents can have their students learn virtually. He said the Tennessee will provide free resources to supplement their district’s school-based services including:

  • Early Literacy Resource: A free resource for students pre-K through 2nd grade to build foundational skills and support early literacy
  • PBS Learning Series: Complete lessons for 1st- 9th grade students in both math and ELA taught by Tennessee teachers
  • STE(A)M Resource Hub: Three challenges per week to spark creative thinking, design, and career exploration from the home
  • Start of the Year Checkpoint: A free and optional assessment to measure student performance at the beginning of the year and help inform educators about student readiness for the year ahead 

The governor's office said additional WiFi and technology supports including 250,000 devices are being made available to parents. 

The governor's office said anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate themselves at home

  • for 10 days from the onset of their symptoms
  • or 10 days from the date their test was done if they never developed symptoms.

Before the student can return to classes, their fever must be gone and "they must be feeling better for at least 24 hours," according to the governor's office.

Parents will receive a text message if someone in their family needs to quarantine for 14 days. 

Any student, teacher, or staff member who comes "within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for 10 minutes or more must quarantine themselves at home for 14 days from the last time they were with that person."

“Leading health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, and National Academies of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering, have all stressed the importance of in-person learning for students,” Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey said in a statement on Tuesday. “The Department of Health has worked with Department of Education to establish a protocol to keep school buildings open safely and cause minimal disruption when positive cases occur.”

With in-person learning, the state said will depend upon the "ability to quickly isolate people who are sick and quarantine their close contacts."

  • If a child is ill, parents should not send them to school where they could infect others.
  • If a child is diagnosed with COVID-19, parents are asked to assist the Department of Health by contacting the child’s close contacts so those individuals can quarantine at home.
  • If a parent is notified that their child has been in close contact of someone with COVID-19, please follow the guidelines and quarantine them at home for 14 days.

The governor also will allow contact sports to resume immediately as long as they follow the TSSAA. This announcement comes after he signed Executive Order No. 55. 

"Its an important part of our community -- athletics -- and it provides a lot of benefits to our student athletes," Lee said. "However, we have to remember that common sense precautions have to be taken in the midst of COVID-19 in order for any return to play to actually make it through the season."

The governor's office said "non-TSSAA schools must follow equivalent guidelines" and "non-school-sponsored athletics should follow the Tennessee Pledge guidelines." To read the full pledge, click here

The governor discussed the long term effects of the COVID-19 on students. According to the 38-member COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force: 

  • Reports of suspected child abuse dropped by 27% during peak stay-at-home orders in Tennessee
  • 75 percent of students nationally receive mental health care in a school setting
  • In 2019, approx. 45,000 school-aged children were served for mental health through the community-based system
  • Approximately half of districts were able to address or check on wellness and safety of students during spring closures
  • Nearly 14 million students across the country go hungry when school is not in session, so resumption of in-person learning is critical to ensure access to nutrition.

Parents will also be able to get school meals if the buildings are closed to the pandemic. To find meals in your area, click here. 

Any teacher or staff member will be provided with face masks and a face shield, if they need one. 

The state has 298,000 cloth reusable masks for teachers, and 27 million disposable masks for students, which was distributed by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

The state is making it easier for you to find and apply to be a substitute teacher. They launched a new website called the Substitute Teacher Jobs Connection. Since the launch of the site, more than 1,000 candidates have submitted their information in hopes of getting a substitute teacher position. To apply, click here. 

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn said the state is "prioritizing health and safety of our school communities."

“Ensuring schools, teachers, families, and students have the critical resources and supports they need to start the new school year strong is paramount, and I am thankful to Governor Lee for continuing to support education in Tennessee as schools reopen across the state," Schwinn said in a statement on Tuesday.

On Monday during a press conference with Dr. Deborah Birx,  Lee said the guidance will include how schools can reopen safely and the plan to protect teachers and children.

"Our hope is that kids can be in school in person. We believe that's best for the children, and I think that we are advocating for it encouraging districts to provide that option for parents,” Lee said.

Schwinn told News4 on Friday what families can expect to learn. 

“When and if a positive COVID case is at a school, families know what to expect around whether the school stays open, what closes down for how long. We need to get those parent facing resources in place so you can expect us to be able to provide and show those as well as a new website,” Schwinn said.

Some districts have released its plans for the school year. Metro Schools will start the academic year remotely.

Wilson County Schools is giving parents two options for their children including virtual learning or stepping back into the classroom. The district pushed back its start date by two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perry County Schools announced Monday it would also delay the start of classes by two weeks, now beginning the school year on Aug. 20. The end of school will also be pushed back two weeks.

Lee also mentioned the state has put $60 million toward reopening schools.

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