Metro Schools to Open Virtually on August 4
Due to the spread and risk of COVID-19 throughout the community, Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Schools, announced today that Metro Nashville Public Schools 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.”
In April of 2020, Metro Schools launched a Remote Learning 2.0 program to provide students with learning opportunities in an online setting with regular check-ins from teachers and staff. The information learned through that process provided greater insight into the needs of our students and families and the capabilities of the district to provide for virtual learning.
“Dr. Battle and her team have been working hard for months now to plan for multiple learning scenarios and make sure students, families, and staff will have the support they need,” Board of Education Chair Amy Frogge said. “While we all want to get students and teachers back into classrooms as quickly as possible, I know the district is prepared to move into the virtual learning environment and continue to provide a high-quality education.”
On August 4, the virtual learning program offered by MNPS will be greatly expanded from what was offered at the end of the 2019-20 school year:
- Assignments will be graded.
- Tests will be given.
- Attendance will be required and tracked.
- Teachers will be required to offer a certain number of hours each week for live classrooms, open office hours, and individualized learning support.
- Curriculum will be consistent across schools and based on a proven virtual school program.
- Schoology will be the platform used by teachers and students to provide access to homework, tests, and lessons that students can access at their own pace (known as asynchronous learning).
- There will be an extensive focus on social-emotional supports for teachers and school staff, who will then support students’ social-emotional and academic needs with regular, personalized check-ins.
- For each child with disabilities, we are developing a COVID-19 Continuous Learning Individualized Plan (CLIP). The CLIP will identify how MNPS will implement the services and supports in your child's lEP or Section 504 Plan in a virtual setting.
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 our 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, we anticipate 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.
The hotspots were funded with part of the $24 million in the Metro Government’s CARES Act allocation that was proposed by Mayor Cooper and approved by the Metro Council last month. As part of that funding allocation, MNPS has ordered additional laptops, with 20,000 scheduled to arrive by the end of August, with monthly shipments to follow that will allow us to become a 1:1 technology ratio district.
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:
- Parents will be asked to check temperatures of students and monitor health symptoms prior to sending them to school.
- Staff will have temperature and symptom checks each morning when entering school.
- Students and teachers will be provided masks and will be required to wear them.
- Social distancing measures will be taken to reduce crowding and large groups of students.
- Due to classroom configurations, six feet of distance between desks will not often be feasible, but desks will be spaced as much as possible and facing in one direction.
- Buses will have assigned seats, and students will be limited to two per seat. Drivers will disinfect the seats after morning and afternoon runs.
- Sanitizer stations will be available in schools, and students and staff will be asked to wash their hands at regular intervals.
- Custodial staff will be responsible for wiping down touchpoints in common areas such as doorknobs and cafeterias. Custodians are contractually obligated to wipe down desks and classroom tables each night. Classrooms, during daily usage, will be the responsibility of teachers and/or designated students in the classroom for wiping down desks, seats, and shared classroom materials in-between uses.
Metro Schools is prepared to provide PPE to all students and staff. The district has used CARES Act funding to purchase a significant amount of PPE to be prepared for when schools reopen, including 1.5 million disposable masks for students, 20,000 disposable masks for staff, gloves, sanitizer, and enhanced PPE for staff interacting with students with symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, the state will be providing masks and thermometers, and we are receiving donations of face shields for teachers.
Starting next week, families will be able to document their preference for in-person or virtual learning once schools can safely reopen. As MNPS will be starting virtually for all students, families will be able to extend their decision into the first part of the semester. Staff will also be given the opportunity next week to notify the district if they are at higher risk for COVID-19 infections and express their interest in working remotely.
Metro Schools has additional information, including expectation guides and frequently asked questions, available on the web at https://www.mnps.org/backtoschools. Additional plans and documents will be released in the coming days and weeks to further outline what the virtual learning environment will look like for students and staff.