NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) — Parents with “Let Nashville Parents Choose” and teachers with MNEA both gathered outside of the Metro Nashville Board of Education building Tuesday ahead of the school board meeting.
 
Both groups advocated for students but each in their own way.
Father of three Morgan Barth has asked for the option to send his twins to kindergarten since the beginning of the school year. They finally went in-person Tuesday as part of the re-opening plan meaning all of his children are now in school (his youngest in private school).
 
Still, he wants all families to have a choice. He said, “I don’t want to leave behind middle or high school students. I think that every parent in Nashville, every family should have the choice to go back to school if they want it as well as they should have the choice to remain virtual if they want it.”
 
These are the current reopening plans.
  • 3rd and 4th grades – Tuesday, October 20
  • 5th and 6th grades – Tuesday, October 27
  • 7th and 8th grades – Wednesday, November 4
  • 9th through 12th grades – Thursday, January 7 (start of the second semester)
Barth commented on that, “I think that’s what’s being missed is it’ll be ten months between schools closing in March and high school students going back in January if they even go back in January. That’s nearly a whole calendar year and that’s just devastating.”
 
But MNEA President Amanda Kail sees it a bit differently.
 
“We just really feel like the way this whole thing has been framed, where we are pitting the health and safety of employees against the needs of students is a situation in which nobody wins.”
 
She wants the school system to focus on the safety of everyone. That includes smaller class sizes for social distancing, replaced ventilation systems in older schools, and extended sick leave for staff that needs it so teachers don’t get sick.
 
Kail said, “Once that happens, what’s going to happen? We’re going to end up having to close schools, quarantine people from online back and forth, it’s going to be chaos. We’re saying why don’t we just stick with what we know works and do that.”
 
Barth reminded it’s not a fight between the parents and the teachers. He said, “I want the school board to listen to the concerns of the teachers over there too. I think metro staff have done an amazing job. We love teachers, we love metro staff, and if they have things that they’re asking for that make them feel safe, I hope that they get them including accommodations for teachers who are not well enough to go back to school.”
 
Inside of the meeting, 30 people were signed up for public comment. After giving each person three minutes and working out an issue related to KIPP Antioch, some board members did talk about the issues teachers and parents brought up.
 
Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle talked about the first day of reopening for pre-K-2nd grade and their plans to analyze that data going forward.
 
She cautioned, “the latest numbers community wide are concerning. And if they continue to trend in the wrong direction it may require deeper discussion about the timeline for our phase in if students.”
 
Christiane Buggs recognized the two groups and said, “Yes we had two rallies that were going on when we pulled up today and I really do appreciate that community members are engaging in the civic process, that they are making sure that they reach out to us. So we want to hear from you. We are certainly very empathetic to every issue, every need, every concern so please continue to reach out to us. But I also want to elevate the idea that this still a pandemic. This is still an unfortunate time to be making decisions.”
 
However Fran Bush was critical of the school district itself for poor planning over the last few months and said that’s what they were hearing Tuesday night.
 
She said, “I had a conversation with Dr. Battle about the planning and I continue to stay firm that we had poor planning throughout this process. When we lose almost close to 7,000 students I think that we can, this is a picture, this is a vision of how we didn’t get it right. To lose that many students it was, we never had that happen before and it’s not because of COVID. It was because of poor planning.”

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