NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is asking school systems to keep schools closed through at least April 24 due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Lee originally requested that schools be closed through the end of March.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing, the governor said state education officials are working to ensure that learning continues as schools remain closed, including working with PBS on televising instructional content.

The state’s education commissioner, Penny Schwinn, released this statement regarding the governor’s request:

“This is an unprecedented time for our country and state and we thank Governor Lee for his leadership in protecting the health and wellbeing of Tennessee’s students and teachers. We know school closures represent a significant disruption for families and students and the recommendation to extend them has not been considered lightly.” 

“The Department of Education team will continue to work closely with our districts as they serve students and families during this time. We are committed to doing whatever we can to support our district leaders as they make the necessary decisions to ensure students can continue to access critical meal and other services, as well as receive high-quality academic instruction while they are out of school.” 

“Even in the midst of these challenges, we have seen an incredible outpouring from districts, schools, and teachers going above and beyond to ensure students continue to have access to food and have the supports they need to continue learning. This is a huge testament to our resilience as a state and the dedication of our educators and leaders.” 

Commissioner Penny Schwinn, Tennessee Dept. of Education

Lee also announced the mobilization of 250 members of the Tennessee National Guard to assist at 35 remote assessment sites in rural locations as the virus spreads into those areas.

The governor said measures are being taken to economically support businesses and individuals during the pandemic. The vehicle emissions testing requirement has been waived through May 18. The Tennessee Department of Revenue has delayed the filing deadline for business franchise and excise taxes until July 15. The state’s attorney general’s office has also filed an emergency petition asking the Tennessee Public Utility Commission to suspend utility service disconnections due to non-payment.

Tuesday afternoon, the Tennessee Department of Health said there are now 667 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.

This is a developing story. Look for updates on