Metro Nashville Public Schools will make a gradual pivot back to in-person classes after closing its buildings to students in the spring, according to a recommendation from Superintendent Adrienne Battle.
The transition will begin with a phased-in approach after the district’s fall break, which ends Oct. 9, and will prioritize Metro Schools youngest students, based on recommendations from Metro Health officials. A similar decision was previously made by several Nashville charter schools.
The district says there will be exceptions for students with disabilities: Some exceptional education students will be able to come back in person after Labor Day.
“As we’re considering expanding our in-person services, we should focus first on these students with exceptional needs,” says Battle. “I’m recommending that we do this in phases, starting with those students in the most restrictive environment and expanding it out to our traditional schools.”
The pre-planned announcement comes after the first weeks of virtual learning were meet with mixed feelings from teachers and students, and days after Nashville saw its lowest number of cases since May.
In early August, the district had 85,076 students enrolled across all traditional and charter schools. More than 10,000 of these kids are exceptional education students.
Last week, the district held a town hall with families who have students with disabilities — many say their children are unable to adequately navigate the provided virtual learning platforms.
During an interview with WPLN News last week, the exceptional education department said they were weighing the option of allowing students with disabilities to return to classrooms.
“We are obviously very concerned, and for any students that are missing instruction, we would have a conversation with those families through the IEP team to discuss what was happening when we were in a virtual learning environment,” said Debbie McAdams, the executive director of exceptional education.
The district says exceptional education case managers will work with families to determine whether or not their children should return to face-to-face instruction on the following schedule:
- Wednesday, September 9: Students in contracted special day schools (Genesis Academy and High Roads School of Nashville)
- Wednesday, September 16: Students in district-run special day schools (Harris-Hillman, Cora Howe, Murrell)
- Wednesday, September 23: Students with disabilities in traditional schools who participate in modified curriculum or who have significant challenges accessing virtual learning effectively.
Phasing in general education students
Since June 26, the district says 247 employees have been isolated or quarantined for COVID-19. Of those, 94 have tested positive. It also says 39 students have been isolated or quarantined, 22 of whom tested positive for the coronavirus. The cases reflect what’s been reported to school leaders, and don’t necessarily reflect “those who encountered schools, staff or students.”
School leaders say once health officials determine it’s safe to expand the in-person classes to all students, families will be offered the opportunity to send kids to buildings based on grade level.
“This might mean pre-K to K-2, or all elementary [grades] to start, followed by middle schools and then high schools last — as those students are most likely to transmit COVID-19 to others,” Battle says.
The district is also partnering with nonprofit YMCA to provide free childcare for working families. The services will be available to children ages 5 to 12 — or in grades K-5 — and require that families adhere to public health requirements. Locations include:
- Taylor Stratton Elementary, 310 W Old Hickory Blvd, Madison, TN 37115
- Jones Padeia Elementary, 1800 9th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208
- Hattie Cotton Elementary, 1033 W Greenwood Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
- Glencliff Elementary, 120 Antioch Pike, Nashville, TN 37211
- Andrew Jackson Elementary, 110 Shute Ln, Old Hickory, TN 37138
- Waverly-Belmont Elementary, 2301 10th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204
- Tusculum Elementary, 440 McMurray Dr, Nashville, TN 37211
- Camp Widjiwagan, 3088 Smith Springs Rd, Antioch, TN 3701
An announcement about returning general education kids to schools will be made before the district’s fall break. Battle says families will have the option to stay in virtual learning until the end of the school year.
Metro Schools is also making a push to hire nurses for every school and is requesting additional CARES Act funding from Metro leaders to fund the positions.
Meanwhile, in support of a Tuesday public health recommendation from city leaders that Nashville schools suspend all competitive sporting events until resuming in-person classes, Battle is postponing sports competitions and performances until further notice.
“My team will be meeting with leaders at both the district and school levels to see what we can still do,” says Battle. “We know how important the athletics and the arts are for many of our students.”