Half of Tenn. school districts will reopen for in-person learning this fall

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee education officials are preparing for half of the school districts in the state to reopen for full in-person learning.

The Shelby County Schools district isn’t one of them. SCS will reopen virtually at the end of the month.

The state is sending supplies to the schools that are reopening classrooms in our area this fall. Official say they’re investing $77 million in personal protective equipment and sending out kits with cleaning supplies to teachers, nurses and other school staff.

CLICK HERE to see the ‘Return To School Plans’ for each district in the Mid-South. We also have a special section dedicated completely to back to school coverage. CLICK HERE for more.

These kits will include things like masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes.

Only a third of schools are back open in Tennessee, and there have been a handful of COVID-19 cases in school settings.

This includes four cases within the Collierville School District, though classes there don’t start until August 17.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said this isn’t surprising. She said the state has mitigation plans in place.

“There will be in-school transmission,” said Piercey. “We know that that’s going to happen. We also know the risk of not being in the classroom can be devastating and lifelong as well.”

If a student or teacher tests positive for COVID19, CDC guidelines recommend testing the entire class or group.

The state’s reopening plan doesn’t include this guideline. Governor Bill Lee said the testing backlog makes that a challenge.

“We’re developing with the resources and the limitations that we have, we’re developing the best strategy accepting and following the CDC guidelines to the degree that we can to make sure that we provide as much safety as possible when we provide in-person schooling,” Lee said.

Additionally, the state is rolling out a new online tool called Best for All Central. The website has optional support for teachers and families.

“If you want to be able to support or check your child’s growth at home you can look at any standard, and it will be able to for math and English connect to an actual assessment item to see how your child is progressing,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.

RELATED: Gov. Lee says there will be a plan for collecting COVID-19 data from schools

Dr. Piercey also gave some clarification about collecting covid19 data from schools.

She said the Tennessee Department of Health is tracking all cases, and they are working with the governor’s office for a plan on what information they can release publicly and how to do it.