Schedule for a Safe Return of Students to Classrooms
Students will begin returning to MNPS classrooms as soon as this week, with the next phase of students coming back next week, as community health conditions now allow for a safe return.
“Our community has done its part to reduce the spread of the virus and get us to a place where we can start welcoming back students into classrooms safely,” said Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle. “Metro Schools will continue to invest in our staff and in resources to create the safest working and learning conditions possible to support the academic and social-emotional progress of our students. I cannot thank our teachers and staff enough for their tireless commitment and dedication to supporting and educating our students during this extraordinary time.”
The schedule for students to return to classrooms, for those parents who chose the in-person option and contingent upon continued success in containing the spread of COVID-19, will be as follows:
- Thursday, February 4 Students with special needs who attend contracted special-day schools
- Tuesday, February 9 Grades Pre-K-4 and students with exceptional needs who were identified last semester as needing in-person instruction
- Thursday, February 18 Grades 5 and 9, transition grades for middle and high schools
- Thursday, February 25 Grades 6, 7, and 8
- Wednesday, March 3 Grades 10, 11, and 12
The day before each group returns will be an asynchronous learning day with no live instruction for those students to allow staff time for preparation.
“This is great news for students and families who want the in-person option, and I’m looking forward to welcoming students back into the classroom,” Mayor John Cooper said. “But we must welcome our school kids back responsibly and safely; that means continuing to mask up and distance. We must also ensure our students come back strong; with our help, they can make full, student-by-student academic progress. I’m committed to supporting Dr. Battle and her team in that critical work.”
To create even safer working and learning environments, the district is adopting safety protocols in addition to those announced in the fall, which included a mask mandate for all students and staff, physical distancing whenever possible, additional cleaning measures by contracted custodial staff, and supplies of PPE such as masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies for teachers and staff.
Additional measures will include a testing protocol developed through a partnership with Meharry Medical College that will use rapid tests offered through the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, as well as PCR tests conducted through labs at Meharry. COVID-19 compliance monitoring and support will also be offered through this partnership to ensure measures are being properly implemented and to recommend additional precautions that the district or schools can take based on observations and data collected on site.
“Meharry has been heavily involved in the city’s response to COVID-19 and stands ready to use the deep knowledge and insight we’ve gained about the virus to help protect the students and staff of MNPS,” said Dr. James Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry. “The mitigation strategies that will be put in place will take best practices from around the country and tailor them to the unique and diverse school settings throughout the district.”
Metro Schools has asked to participate in a proposed plan by the Tennessee Department of Health to directly allocate vaccines to school districts to administer to staff. The district is simultaneously working with Vanderbilt University and other stakeholders to support vaccine administration for teachers and staff through the allotments provided to the Metro Public Health Department as part of the broader vaccine delivery plan. Teachers in that plan are scheduled to receive vaccines starting in phase 1b. Currently, Davidson County is in phase 1a2 of the distribution plan, with phase 1b expected to start in late February or early March.
“I appreciate the thoughtful approach presented by Dr. Battle and her steadfast commitment to offering an in-person option when it was safe to do so,” said Christiane Buggs, Chair of the Board of Education. “Now we need to see a similar commitment from Governor Lee by doing the one thing Dr. Battle has asked for him to do, and that is to prioritize MNPS for a direct allocation of vaccines now – not four weeks from now – so that we can further protect our teachers and support staff who are still fearful of this virus that still poses a danger to their health and safety and that of their families.”
Metro Nashville Public Schools have been operating completely virtually since November 30, 2020, following a nationwide spike in cases of COVID-19 that forced school closures across the country. Many students whose families chose the option to return in person attended in the fall, starting with those with the most exceptional needs in September and with elementary students returning in October. The district paused the phase-in of grades 5-6 and 7-8 due to increasing COVID-19 spread prior to returning to virtual learning for all students.
Metro Schools adopted a COVID-19 risk tracker in November to allow families and staff the ability to follow the city’s progress daily as it related to a return to in-person learning. The score is calculated using three metrics provided by Metro Government’s covid19.nashville.gov website: the 7-day average positivity rate weighted at 20 percent, the 7-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents weighted at 60 percent, and the transmission rate weighted at 20 percent.
Dr. Battle announced in December that MNPS would start the second semester virtually and that she would announce a phase-in schedule for returning students to the classroom once the risk score dropped below 7. Families were provided the opportunity to decide whether their students would attend in person or virtually for the remainder of the school year in September, with an opportunity to change that decision in December. Approximately 55 percent chose the in-person option when it was safe to return, while 45 percent chose to remain virtual for the remainder of the year.