Due to the spread and risk of COVID-19 throughout the community, Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), announced Thursday that MNPS will open the 2020-21 school year in a virtual setting for all students starting on August 4 through Labor Day on September 7.
“This decision was not made lightly, but the risks to the health and safety of students and staff are too great at this moment for us to begin the school year with in-classroom instruction,” said Dr. Battle. “I am confident that our teachers and support staff will be up to the challenge of providing a great education that meets the academic and social-emotional needs of our students in a virtual learning environment.”
The decision to start the school year in an all-virtual environment is based on a number of concerning factors related to the spread of COVID-19. The rate of transmission, number of cases, and positivity rate have all increased in recent weeks, requiring Nashville to move back to a modified Phase 2 in Mayor John Cooper’s Roadmap to Reopening. Additionally, Governor Bill Lee extended his emergency executive order due to the spread of COVID-19 statewide.
“Given the context of MNPS, with such a large and diverse number of students, teachers, and facilities, waiting a little longer before returning students to the classroom is the right decision based on the health care data we are seeing right now,” said Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the Metro Coronavirus Taskforce. “We hope to see our numbers drop in the next few weeks based on the policies we’ve put in place during the last two weeks, but that will only happen if members of our community take this virus seriously and practice social distancing and wear masks to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.”
MNPS’ virtual learning program will be expanded from previous offerings, including tracking attendance, teachers will offer live classrooms, tests will be given and more.
The virtual learning program will be school-based, meaning students will be connecting with teachers at their school of enrollment. On Tuesday, July 14, the Board will consider a contract with the Florida Virtual School to provide a virtual learning curriculum that has achieved proven results serving students in an online environment. The curriculum will eliminate the need for individual teachers to create all their own online content and will provide a more consistent learning environment for students across all MNPS schools.
“Eventually, we anticipate community spread of COVID-19 will be low enough that we can safely reopen our school buildings to students, and we are prepared to create a safe environment for students and staff,” said Dr. Battle. “We have policies developed that will mitigate the spread of COVID-19 with detailed guidance that will be provided to schools and families so they can understand the steps being taken to keep them safe.”
In order to close the technology gap between those students with access to their own devices and those who require district-provided devices, MNPS will prepare up to 44,000 devices in its schools for students to use for remote learning. Based on student needs assessments conducted by teachers and staff at the end of the 2019-20 school year, MNPS anticipates approximately 32,000 students need a district-provided device. Additionally, 17,000 hotspots have been ordered and will be offered to families in need of internet access.
Once schools can safely reopen, families will have the option of choosing between an in-person learning option or remaining in the virtual option. Students and staff in the in-person learning environment will see considerable efforts taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Current COVID-19 Cases in Metro Nashville
Today, July 9, Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) officials announced a total of 13,440 cases (both confirmed and probable), an increase of 688 in the past 24 hours.
172 of the 688 new cases date back to late June. MPHD is now working with a new lab and expects to eliminate or significantly reduce future reporting delays.