As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Tennessee, Nashville educators are advocating for schools across the state to begin the academic year in a virtual environment.
Local and state educators, parents and community members participated in a demonstration July 27 protesting the reopening of schools.
The event, a mock funeral procession "mourning the loss of effective leadership," was hosted by the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association and Tennessee for a Safe Return to Campus, a group of educators, staff, parents and students calling for school districts to begin the academic year remotely and not return to campus until individual counties report no new COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days.
In an effort to promote social distancing, participants drove from the Nashville Farmers Market to the Governor's Residence in Oak Hill.
"We're going to ensure everyone is safe, and we're not letting anyone fall through the cracks," Metropolitan Nashville Education Association President Amanda Kail said at the event. "I don't care if you're a bus driver, a paraprofessional or a teacher ... We need all of our students and all of our people safe. We're telling [Gov. Bill Lee] to do the right thing and make sure there is a baseline of safety in every district in this state."
Tennessee for a Safe Return to Campus is calling for students and teachers to have adequate access to technology to participate in distance learning. Upon return to campuses, the group demands adequate supplies, personnel, and facilities "to safely share space on campus and react aggressively to any resurgence of COVID-19."
Metro Nashville Public Schools announced July 9 that all students will begin the school year virtually Aug. 4. Virtual instruction is expected to last through at least Labor Day, according to Director of School Adrienne Battle.
"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 July 9. "In the last few weeks, the numbers have caused many of us to rethink our optimism."
When schools resume in-person instruction, families will have the option to keep their children at home and continue remote learning, Battle said.
"At MNPS, we are lucky that we have great competent leadership in Dr. Battle," said a post by Greater Nashville for a Safe Return to Campus, a subgroup of Tennessee for a Safe Return to Campus. "Her plan for remote learning seems solid and well planned out. I have faith that she will not allow us to return until it’s safe to do so ... For this movement, we say there needs to be no new cases for 14 days before schools can safely open."