Families in Metro Nashville Public Schools are evenly divided on returning their kids to in-person classes in the fall. That’s according to the results of a reopening survey released at a board meeting Tuesday evening.
Not all families responded to the survey, but Superintendent Adrienne Battle says among those who did, a slight majority will be returning to buildings after fall break.
“Our results from the parent decision survey show about 54% of students choosing in-person learning, while 46% chose virtual,” says Battle. “In terms of actual attendance breakdowns, we can anticipate this will be the general trend as we phase students back into the classroom.”
Families who didn’t respond to the district’s survey will be opted into face-to-face classes by default. That means close to 60,000 students will be returning to school buildings.
“Schools will take that information provided by parents and make scheduling and staffing adjustments to match virtual and in-person students with like teachers and staff, so that all students have access to a quality education, regardless of which option they chose,” says Battle.
The district’s chosen pandemic contractor, the Florida Virtual School, will be the go-to curriculum whether students are at home or inside the classroom. Students who do choose to stay home will have access to teacher support as needed, and learn at the same pace as the kids in school buildings.
One parent, Jessica Maxfield, chose to return her children to school buildings, at least until January. She says the decision was an “intensely personal choice.”
“We decided we were going to go ahead and send our kindergartner because she’s found it difficult to transition,” says Maxfield. “Then we talked it over with our sixth grader and let him think about it. He came back to us with the thought that he would like to try [in-person classes].”
Meanwhile, a separate survey conducted by the Metro Nashville Education Association, says nearly half of its 1,803 polled teachers don’t feel comfortable returning to face-to-face instruction.
“I think the district has planned as much as they can, but I also think the district is really leaning toward what the parents want,” says Satricia Moore, a science teacher at Apollo Middle School in Antioch. “I don’t think that the safety of everyone that has to enter the school building is being considered.”
Generally, Moore says, she’s been sheltering in place, and has only been around her mother — which she’ll have to scale back on after returning to teaching students in-person. And at this point, she says, she doesn’t feel comfortable being around people without knowing who they’ve been in contact with.
“This virus has taken out almost 200,000 people in this country,” says Moore. “I have extended family members and friends of family who’ve passed away from this. I don’t want to risk exposure.”
Last month, the teachers association did negotiate guaranteed protective equipment and more flexibility for teachers. The group is now asking for extended paid sick leave, reduced class size, adequate ventilation in all classrooms, and the choice for teachers to stay virtual until they feel comfortable returning to face-to-face classes.
“Now that we know what educators need to feel safe, we are asking what they are willing to do to achieve those goals,” says MNEA in an online statement.