Dear Percy Priest ES Families,
I hope this email finds you and your family healthy and doing well. The past few days have been challenging for most of us, but as the song says…..”We are All in this Together.”
MNPS principals, teachers, and staff officially returned from spring break on Monday, March 23, 2020. Although the school buildings will remain closed at least until Friday, April 24, 2020, the district remains open. As the district continues to adapt in response to COVID-19, principals, teachers, and other district staff will telework, which is a learning curve for most of us!
This world of work requires flexibility, accountability, and patience as we learn new modalities of working and collaborating virtually. On Monday, I had four virtual meetings/conferences using two platforms I had never used before. YIKES!
Our district is committed to ensuring equitable educational opportunities for all students. Therefore, no remote learning has been required. Teachers are not expected to prepare or design any teaching materials for remote learning at this time, although future planning may be a possibility. PPE teachers have provided you with many resources, activities, ideas, logins for sites students were using prior to COVID-19 and many suggestions to use as you are doing your best to “homeschool” while also working from home.
Also, teachers are not to deliver online teaching that involves required assignments, grades, or attendance. In addition, teachers may not tutor any students during the day and may not tutor any student currently assigned to their class. The district has compiled a list of online resources to support students during their time away from classrooms. You can access these resources at https://www.mnps.org/digitaltools. There are resources for students at all tiers, to include review materials for ACT, AP, IB, and Cambridge. No work generated from any online activities will be graded.
It is budget season and I need your help. Please email your child’s teacher (Grades K-3 only) and provide them with the following information:
- Child’s name
- Yes, my child will return to PPE for the 20-21 school year
- No, my child will not return to PPE for the 20-21 school year. Please forward records to: (name of school he/she will attend)
Thank you in advance.
We are all in this together,
~Below is a Q & A session conducted with Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn on Thursday, March 26, 2020 in Knoxville re: COVID-19 and schools.
· What virus means for schools Monica Kast with the Knoxville News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK TENNESSEE. With new information coming daily about the coronavirus, and Gov. Bill Lee asking schools to remain closed through April 24, parents and students have many questions about what this means for the school year. Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn talked with Knox News about how the Tennessee Department of Education has been handling the COVID- 19 pandemic and some of the latest changes. Knox News asked Schwinn questions from our reporters around the state and questions submitted by readers. (Submitted questions may have been edited for clarity or length.)
Question: What has been the state’s approach when making decisions about education during this pandemic?
“Anytime we have to make decisions related to school closure, they’re tough ones, because we know there’s an impact on families, there’s an impact on communities, there’s an impact on kids.” Schwinn is regularly meeting with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to get the most updated information. “Our No. 1 is to make sure that all of our kids and our stakeholders who are working in our public schools are safe and healthy, and that will continue to be the guiding force in terms of how those decisions are made.”
Q. Right now, the guidance from the governor is to close schools through April 24. Any plans of possibly extending that further?
“We’re trying to take measured steps that extend school closures long enough where districts can really invest time in providing opportunities for distance learning, while at the same time leaving room open to reopen schools at the earliest possible opportunity when it is fully safe for all of our children and the people who work in our school buildings and in our districts.” When it’s safe for schools to reopen, the Tennessee Department of Education will issue guidance on how to best do that, including making sure schools “welcome children back and support them in the transition, and frankly, help them understand what they just experienced.”
Q. Why are some districts using distance or online learning and others are not?
It depends on what is best for each district, Schwinn said. “The thing that really resonates is that we have a number of districts, especially in urban and suburban districts, where the majority of students do have regular access to internet. But many of our rural districts….they just don’t have regular access to internet.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Education announced a partnership with PBS that will air content that builds on what students learned before schools were closed. It will be available on the TV, internet and over the radio. Work that goes along with the PBS content will be available online or can be mailed to students.
Schwinn said she expects districts that were not using online or remote learning could start doing so, because of the extended time off. “Now we’re moving into that space where students are going to be missing a month or more of instruction, and my expectation is that districts are going to be making very different decisions about children having access to instruction and opportunities.”
Q. Because this is such a long period where schools are closed, has there been any decision made about how schools will be handling these extra days off? Will they be added to the end of the school year?
Schwinn has issued a waiver, so schools do not have to make up all of the days they miss because of COVID-19. That doesn’t mean school districts should stop instruction, however. “That being said, the intended expectation with that is that districts are thinking very critically about how they will continue to provide learning opportunities at home. The waiver of days is not to say that we’re shortening the school year, but it is to say that we’re having them approach it in an alternative model.”
Q. Has the state considered using rainy day or emergency funds to help school districts fill budget losses from the loss of sales tax and other revenue caused by the coronavirus? (Anne-Marie F., Nashville)
“The budget for the 2019-20 academic year is already in place and not affected by COVID-19 economic losses, Schwinn said. However, the coronavirus could impact budget conversations for the next school year. “In terms of what that means for the school year 2020-21, I think that will be a very robust conversation that will happen when the legislature reconvenes. “I do think that forecasting and the economic forecasting will be an ongoing conversation.”
Q. What plans are being made for the start of the school year if this crisis continues into August? (Anne-Marie F., Nashville)
“The Department of Education is keeping up with predictions for the spread of COVID-19 and “planning for all possibilities next year,” Schwinn said. “While it’s too soon to tell where things could stand at the beginning of August, there are ongoing conversations about different options.” “We will be ready to execute regardless of what the information is, and we’ll have a number of options available to discuss, certainly with the governor, with the legislature and with our school communities.”
Q. Will the state provide resources for children to have a laptop so that they can continue learning and doing online work? (Leticia J., Nashville)
“That is up to each district and is not a statewide decision,” Schwinn said. “However, there are options available on the Department of Education website that give families access to internet, in some cases for free. Districts also have the option to lease laptops for a fee for children in their district, which they can do at any time,” Schwinn said.
Q. What online resources exist for students at home, and how do those resources align with the state standards? (Ann B., Knoxville)
“An academic toolkit will be available on the Department of Education website this week with resources that “will provide very clear direction,” Schwinn said. Those resources will include online and television learning programs, as well as sample schedules and best practices for families. “We want to make sure that we’re creating resources for families that are usable in the realistic situations that they find themselves.”
Q. Is there anything being done to address how this time off is going to affect students who are from different backgrounds or different parts of the state?
“There’s been a lot of discussion about who is and who is not adversely affected. We certainly know that children who speak a language other than English, children with disabilities … children who are in foster care, who are homeless, are going to be significantly more impacted in times of school closure.”
Schwinn said the Department of Education is “operating under the assumption that the work that is happening at home is good, at-home learning that is reinforcing the content that has been taught previously,” but is preparing for remedial work that may have to be done when students return to schools.
“We are coming up with a number of ideas, policy proposals, etc., to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, regardless of their background, regardless of any of the ways that they may or may not be adversely impacted, that they will have the same opportunities as the kid that came before them and that come after them.”