Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Education / Facebook
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
The Tennessee Department of Education, led by Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, has given permission to at least seven school districts to shift to virtual learning for up to five days in response to issues related to COVID-19.
Schwinn and TDOE officials have said on many occasions that entire school districts would not be allowed to pivot to remote/virtual learning. The assurance was that only individual schools would be granted permission. However, the seven districts that were granted permission to go virtual included every school within each district.
The TDOE stated that there has not been a shift in the previously stated policy. Rather, there appears to be a built-in loophole.
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TDOE Spokesperson Victoria Robinson said that the policy has no built-in limit to the number of individual schools within a district that can be granted permission to go virtual and there is also no limit to the number of districts that can request waivers from the TDOE.
In effect, with all the schools within the seven districts being granted waivers, all seven entire school districts have been allowed to shift to remote learning.
Among others, Schwinn has approved remote learning waivers for Carroll County’s West Carroll Special School District including West Carroll Elementary, West Carroll Junior and Senior High and West Carroll Primary. With the district only having three schools, the entire district is now virtual, at least for the five-day-span of the initial waiver.
School administrators cite staffing shortages as one of the main reasons for asking for permission to go virtual.
For example, WKRN reports that Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville has 30 percent of their staff in isolation and/or quarantine. The school also states that 26 percent of their students are in the same situation.
The TDOE will grant waivers when an individual school can document that COVID-19 quarantine and isolation protocols are having a significant impact on school operations and impacting students, teachers and/or staff.
With each granted waiver, all extracurricular activities for the individual school must also be cancelled and a single waiver can grant a maximum of seven days of remote-only learning.
However, additional waivers can be requested if the individual school calculates that their situation has not improved.
Hamilton County Schools recently also had a selection of their schools shift to remote learning including Rivermont Elementary, Nolan Elementary, Harrison Elementary, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (Lower & Upper), Chattanooga Center for the Creative Arts, Hixson Elementary, Battle Academy, Chattanooga School for Liberal Arts, East Brainerd Elementary School, Lookout Valley Middle High School, Wolftever Creek Elementary School, Hunter Middle School, Soddy Elementary School and Loftis Middle School.
Six of the schools listed above had waiver expiration dates yesterday, January 24th for their initial shift to remote learning. While the remainder’s remote learning is still ongoing.
No word yet, at the publication of this article, whether the expired waivers have been renewed.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com