Both school districts in Williamson County sent letters to respective families Wednesday afternoon after Gov. Bill Lee recommended that school districts across the state remain closed through the end of the school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schools were previously asked to remain closed until Friday, April 24, but Lee said it has become apparent that the deadline should be extended through closing dates originally set, which were May 21 for Williamson County Schools and May 22 for Franklin Special School District.
“Our Department of Education will work with local leaders,” Lee said in his Wednesday afternoon briefing on the coronavirus outbreak. “We want to make sure that there is flexibility for districts all across the state as they have critical year-end activities they need to complete and to begin preparing for next year.”
Lee’s announcement wasn’t unexpected, as both districts have been establishing online learning plans and providing resources from the time schools first closed in March. Both have honored his recommendation.
“While school sites remain closed, teachers and staff continue to work to provide resources for students and families,” Golden said in his letter. “Teachers will continue reaching out to students to share opportunities to improve their semester grades, to share daily or weekly pacing guides or to provide other supports through the end of the school year.
“Principal and teacher teams are also working on end-of-the-year plans ranging from how students pick up personal items from school to promotion and graduation ceremonies. We will be celebrating graduates whether it is in person, virtually or a combination of the two.”
Snowden made similar remarks in Wednesday afternoon’s letter sent to FSSD families.
“While we understand this is a necessary step to ensure we avoid exposure of children and adults to the coronavirus, we also understand that this decision is disappointing for many,” he wrote. “We know you are working as hard as you can to help your children continue their learning with the review packets we provided over the past few weeks.
“Your teachers and principals are working hard to provide you with the resources that you and your children need to learn from home. As the closure has extended, teachers are offering more and more opportunities to connect with students.”
The closing of schools has an impact that goes beyond academics, according to Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. She has pulled together a task force to address the consequences for school closings on some children.
“Children being out of school for such a long time has significant implications for a child’s wellbeing, and this poses a different kind of challenge for all of us, as communities and as a state,” Schwinn said in a press release. “There is critical work ahead, and I am honored to convene the COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force in the coming weeks to focus state and local leaders on the wellbeing of Tennessee’s children.”
Schwinn will be leading the task force to support local leaders and communities in caring for students, particularly those who are vulnerable or most at risk. Details about the task force will be announced in the coming weeks.