District officials previously said MNPS would offer both in-person and virtual learning options when classes begin Aug. 4. However, Battle said it is now necessary to begin the school year in a remote setting due to rising COVID-19 cases in the Nashville area.
"I’m not a public health expert, but I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with the data and information in front of us and the implications for the safety and well-being of our students and staff," Battle said during the press conference.
Remote learning is expected to last through at least Labor Day, Battle said. When schools resume in-person instruction, families will have the option to keep their children at home and continue remote learning.
On June 8, Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced that the city is working with MNPS to provide laptops and internet hot spots to thousands of students who do not have access to Wi-Fi in order to help them be able to complete remote learning assignments. Battle said the district will not have access to all 90,000 laptops by the beginning of August but that MNPS has access to devices from previous years to supply all students with laptops by the time remote learning begins next month.
In the coming weeks, the district will contact all families to assess students' needs to ensure all families have access to devices by Aug. 4, Battle said.
The school district's new plan follows Cooper's July 2 announcement that the city would revert to Phase 2 of economic reopening "for the next several weeks," which calls for bars and entertainment venues to close. Under the school's back-to-school plan, Battle said school facilities will not reopen for face-to-face instruction under the city's second reopening phase.
"Our nation has not prioritized the steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 ... We had every reason to believe we were on track to be in Phase 4 [of the city’s reopening plan] by the time schools are scheduled to open on Aug. 4, or at least at the end of Phase 3," Battle said. "In the last few weeks, the numbers have caused many of us to rethink our optimism."
At a July 8 press conference, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said state education officials are working with districts across the state to provide a framework for instruction that prioritizes the “health and safety of all stakeholders and high-quality education for all children."
"We are working closely with our districts to ensure that they have the assistance, the resources and the support they need to develop robust plans so that whether or not they're in a hybrid model, in-person or remote, students continue to learn and we are putting safety and high-quality education in front of mind."
Schwinn said school districts planning to offer remote learning must submit back-to-school plans by July 24.
This story is developing, check back for updates.