Bill Lee July 23

Gov. Bill Lee speaks during a July 23 press conference in Nashville.

On Friday, July 17, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden requested of Gov. Bill Lee that WCS be granted flexibility in its reopening, asking for waivers on required state testing and mandatory classroom days and hours.

On Wednesday afternoon, Lee responded by turning down Golden’s requests, writing that while reopening safely was a “top priority,” “assessing student learning is an integral part of the Tennessee education system.”

On Thursday during a press conference, Lee explained his decision in greater detail, stressing the importance of knowing the academic impact early school closures have had on young Tennesseans as the coronavirus pandemic continues to reshape everyday life.

“No one knows yet what the impact of closing schools through the months of spring will have on children — the only way to know that impact and to know how to address that impact is to make assessments,” Lee said.

“We believe that parents should know, that teachers should know, and that we as a community should know where our children stand as a result of closing schools through this period of time. It's very important that we understand just how strong this impact has been academically on children, and we believe the way to do that is to be sure that kids are assessed.”

Bill Lee July 23 Wideshot

Gov. Bill Lee speaks during a July 23 press conference in Nashville.

Williamson County Schools are currently set to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year on Aug. 7, with early education through second grade students returning to campuses, and third grade through 12th graders starting school remotely.

While Williamson County Schools, along with many other Tennessee school districts have moved to reopen remotely, Lee stood strong in his belief Thursday that schools should move to return to in-person instruction within the next few weeks, listing a bevy of reasons for his position.

“Kids are suffering academically, emotionally and mental health [wise],” Lee said. “Child abuse reporting is way down, and we don't believe it's because child abuse is down, it's because schools and teachers are a reporting mechanism for that. “

“There are a number of working families who need for their children to be in school so they can continue to work. There's a lot of reasons why schools can be, and should be open, so long as we do that in a way that protects teachers and students.”

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