Tennessee Department of Education to allow virtual learning waiver for schools

Commission Penny Schwinn made the announcement in a letter written to school directors on Friday.
Published: Aug. 28, 2021 at 8:10 AM EDT|Updated: Jan. 18, 2022 at 3:54 PM EST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn announced Friday that she will consider allowing classrooms or schools make the temporary transition to virtual learning when needed. Schwinn let school directors know in an announcement letter.

Commissioner Schwinn said in the letter that waivers will be needed to make the transition.

“I will consider waivers of the provisions of Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. Chapters 0520-01-03 and 0520-01-13 related to remote instruction to the extent necessary to allow students affected at the classroom or school level by COVID-19 isolation or quarantine to participate in remote instruction. I will be using this waiver authority pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-1-201 in cases where districts can demonstrate and document COVID-related needs in their school communities that necessitate a temporary shift to remote instruction for classrooms or entire schools. This waiver process is not required for individual students on quarantine to receive remote instruction.”

Schwinn also said she would rather see students in classrooms and expects the waivers to be used only occasionally.

“I firmly believe in-person instruction is the best for kids, and there are proven strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While I want to provide common-sense flexibilities to administrators who are making every possible effort to ensure the continuation of in-person academic instruction, my expectation is that waivers will be narrowly applied to preserve in-person learning wherever practicable,” Schwinn said in the letter to directors.

Governor Bill Lee spoke on Thursday in a press conference regarding kid’s safety and health in school. He, along with health officials, are now urging children to wear masks in school.

“It’s not my job to tell a parent what to do, but what I would say is that if you want to protect your kid from the virus or from quarantine, the best way to do that is to have your kid in school with a mask,” said Lee.

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, spoke on the state of COVID-19 in Tennessee and pediatric COVID cases.

Piercey said that the best way to protect children, is for schools and parents to mask up their students.

Here in Knox County Schools, more than 8,600 absent on Thursday, August 28. Now, the Knox County School Board called for a special meeting Friday to address the rising COVID-19 cases the school system has seen.

The Board is expected to discuss mandatory isolation leave for employees who test positive for COVID-19, changes to the school system’s COVID-19 tracker and the number of absences allowed during the school year.

The meeting will also discuss a universal mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors while indoor and on school busses. They will also discuss a mandate just for pre-K through fifth grade students. This, according to the meeting’s agenda.

The call for a special meeting comes as active COVID-19 cases in the school district tops 800 with 807 active cases, according to the dashboard.

The discussion meeting will be Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 5 p.m., but voting will take place at the next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 8.

The letter in full can be read here:

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