TN Launches Online Learning Support As Governor Lee Reiterates Why In-Person Classes Should Remain A Choice

The tool is designed to give school leaders, educators, students and families access to resources that support teaching and learning.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee health and education officials continued to advocate for parents to be allowed to choose in-person learning on Thursday after announcing the launch of new designed tools to facilitate distance learning.

Students have already returned to class in one form or another in at least a third of the state’s districts, according to Tennessee Department of Education commissioner Penny Schwinn. Another third is expected to return to school next week, and around 20% of schools will be in session by the end of August.

The Governor, TDOE and the TN Department of Health have all expressed support for giving parents the choice of in-person classes, saying they are working to keep teachers and students safe. through measures such as providing kits of supplies to all schools filled with PPE and other necessary supplies. .

“We are very proud to have made health and safety a priority, but also to promote success in our schools,” said Schwinn.

Lee has reinforced for weeks that he and other heads of state are concerned about potential risks, such as a lack of oversight and intervention in child neglect and abuse, which could come from the passage of children. schools to a distance learning model – despite the current risks of COVID-19 in the state. Leaders are also concerned about the dire consequences the pandemic has on the mental well-being of students, parents, teachers and others, saying in-person classes provide a necessary normality for growth and development.

TDH Commissioner Lisa Piercey said some positive trends were emerging with the pandemic in recent days. Case averages have started to decline, and laboratory turnaround times and backlogs are improving. The number of new tests being done also tends to drop, but Piercey said no one should be shy about getting tested due to concerns from overworked labs if they think they have symptoms, saying early identification and intervention are needed. crucial to preventing the spread of the disease.

Piercey said that when it comes to going back to school, doctors are well aware that it is impossible to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in this setting – saying it will be “inevitable” that more cases are observed in the school system once classes are resumed. However, Piercey said they are “not alarmed” by this fact and have supported a return to class as a mother herself, saying the risk of not being in class can be “devastating and lifelong.”

The TDOE also announced that $ 15 million in grants would be used to purchase WiFi or MiFi devices for students in need. Its 100,000 expected households will benefit from the subsidies.

To be eligible for funding, districts will need to provide information on the number of households without Internet access. They should also tell officials how they plan to collect this information, for example through family surveys.

State officials said they contracted rates for MiFi devices and data coverage for the first semester of class. Funds will expire after the first semester and districts should plan to collect data charges for the second semester, or otherwise develop a plan to address it.

TDOE also launched an online tool Thursday to help families and teachers teach students, called “Best for All Central: Tennessee’s Hub for Learning and Teaching.”

Officials said the tool will be an online platform for educational materials to be used for the academic year. They said the tool was designed to be easily accessible, searchable, and free. They also said the launch was a priority to support school districts and families.

The online tool’s resources are designed to accommodate different levels of Wi-Fi and Internet accessibility. Most of the resources can be used online or downloaded and printed for further learning.

The tool also contains resources to assist school leaders and educators on topics such as preparation for distance education classes, continuing distance education, and remediation in a distance learning environment. Topics include resources on relationship building, communication routines, and how to help struggling students.

RELATED: Knox County Schools Extend Start Date by One Week to August 24

Officials said there are also resources to help educators and families understand Tennessee academic standards. With “Best for All Central”, users can explore student expectations for specific standards and see how the standards align across grade levels.

Finally, the tool also includes videos with accompanying lessons on various topics. Officials said more videos will continue to be added and are intended to provide districts with weekly content on core learning areas. The videos are produced by Hamilton, Overton, Fentress and Marshall County schools.

“The goal of this project has always been to provide a one-stop-shop for excellent learning and teaching resources that will support our teachers and districts throughout the year, and the availability of these resources has grown. even more urgent as Tennesséens face new challenges in education stemming from COVID-19, ”said TDOE Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

The tool was created with help from the Trinity Education Group, officials said. The company has a history of developing mobile learning resources.

RELATED: Knox County Health Department ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ on Recent COVID-19 Trends

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