Due to the spread and risk of COVID-19 throughout the community, Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Schools, announced that Metro Nashville Public Schools will open the 2020-21 school year in a virtual setting for all students starting on August 4 through Labor Day on September 7.
“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.”
The decision to start the school year in an all-virtual environment is based on a number of concerning factors related to the spread of COVID-19. The rate of transmission, number of cases and positivity rate have all increased in recent weeks—requiring Nashville to move back to a modified Phase 2 in Mayor John Cooper’s Roadmap to Reopening. Additionally, Gov. Bill Lee extended his emergency executive order due to the spread of COVID-19 statewide.
“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,” said Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the Metro Coronavirus Taskforce. “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.”
In April of 2020, Metro Schools launched a Remote Learning 2.0 program to provide students with learning opportunities in an online setting with regular check-ins from teachers and staff. The information learned through that process provided greater insight into the needs of our students and families and the capabilities of the district to provide for virtual learning.
“Dr. Battle and her team have been working hard for months now to plan for multiple learning scenarios and make sure students, families, and staff will have the support they need,” Board of Education Chair Amy Frogge said. “While we all want to get students and teachers back into classrooms as quickly as possible, I know the district is prepared to move into the virtual learning environment and continue to provide a high-quality education.”
On August 4, the virtual learning program offered by MNPS will be greatly expanded from what was offered at the end of the 2019-20 school year to include things like graded assignments, tests, and tracked attendance.
“Eventually, we anticipate community spread of COVID-19 will be low enough that we can safely reopen our school buildings to students, and we are prepared to create a safe environment for students and staff,” said Dr. Battle. “We have policies developed that will mitigate the spread of COVID-19 with detailed guidance that will be provided to schools and families so they can understand the steps being taken to keep them safe.”
Once schools can safely reopen, families will have the option of choosing between an in-person learning option or remaining in the virtual option. Students and staff in the in-person learning environment will see considerable efforts taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Metro Schools has additional information, including expectation guides and frequently asked questions, available on the web at <www.mnps.org/backtoschool>.