Note: This story was last updated at 6:40 p.m.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has recommended that schools in the state remain closed through the end of the school year.
Lee announced the recommendation during a Wednesday afternoon press conference about the COVID-19 pandemic.
School districts will have the flexibility to carry out critical year-end activities and to start preparing for next year, the governor said.
Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said she appreciated the governor’s recommendation to keep schools closed through the end of the school year in order to protect the health and safety of all Tennesseans.
Schwinn said schools will open next year, and students will enter new grades.
She said the state’s hard work has to continue, student achievements will need to be measured, and children will need to be supported.
“This pandemic has impacted our children in ways we are only beginning to understand,” Schwinn said. “We must ensure our children continue learning.”
She said that being out of school affects the well-being of students. At the governor’s direction, Schwinn is convening a COVID-19 child well-being task force that will support communities to check on children and, among other things, ensure that they are safe.
While schools have been closed, Schwinn said, districts have worked with local partners, churches, volunteers, school staff members, and more to deliver meals, instructional lessons, and work packets to students. Police officers have been checking on students at home, and nonprofits have been helping with supplies and support, Schwinn said. Principals, teachers, and superintendents have been working hard to support kids, she said.
“We’ve seen our districts go above and beyond.” Schwinn said.
Lee said the state is committed to continuing to provide resources to keep students engaged during the next few weeks while they are not attending schools.
“This pandemic has created many challenges for families, and for teachers, and for students,” he said. “Classroom time has been lost. Students have lost a significant amount of learning time.”
Lee said his office will work with the Tennessee General Assembly regarding any changes to school calendars, and he has talked to the U.S. Department of Education about funding issues as school districts in Tennessee are expected to face budget problems because of the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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