Pandemic presents consistency challenge for Tennessee teachers

Keeping Schools Safe

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – New challenges are emerging as the school year continues in Tennessee.

State Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn said it’s been harder to have consistency in teaching when some students are forced into quarantine.

“What we found as a particular challenge is that students who were moving in and out of quarantine – certainly we’ve had a lot of parents who had their kids in remote learning and actually wanted them back in person,” Dr. Schwinn said. “It’s meant that teachers had very… a lot of rotation within their own class schedules and rosters. So you constantly have to restart – catch kids up here, catch kids up there. And I want to reinforce that that’s really hard as an educator when you don’t have that same consistency that you might have during a school year and so that’s something that I don’t think we had spent as much time on that has been a challenge.”

According to the state dashboard, there were 677 new cases of COVID-19 among the state’s students last week and 442 the week before. Also, there were 348 new COVID-19 cases among staff in Tennessee schools and 266 the prior week.

“When you think about numbers, kind of holistically, we’re looking at almost 700,000 students who are in schools at some point during the week. Any numbers – real raw numbers – are going to feel high, but when you think about that in percentages, it reinforces schools are doing a great job,” said Dr. Schwinn. “That being said, we do expect and have expected those numbers to tick up over the last two weeks. We were on Fall break, folks were mingling on vacation and spending time together. Halloween is tomorrow so we expect another… that’ll be somethin’. Then we’ve got Thanksgiving and certainly the winter holiday.”

Schwinn claimed Tennessee is leading the country in schools re-opening, with one factor being whether or not schools remain open after restarting in-person learning.

“We’ve seen that nationally they’ve had to shutdown a lot of schools in these rotating closures and we, even though any numbers are too high, we always want to make sure we keep this under wraps. So wear your masks. I think what we’re also seeing is that in any given time 99.6 percent of our schools stay open, which is very high,” Schwinn said. “We’re one of only 12 states in the country that require instructional plans for remote learning so that no matter what we need to keep people safe but kids still have to have access to that great education.”

Schwinn added that in the Spring the state will be rolling out grant money specifically to help the state’s students recover from learning loss. It’ll allow Tennessee’s youngest learners to get remediation support outside of school.

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