Sumner County Schools announced on Wednesday that all district schools will be closed next week from September 7 to September 10 “to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff.” The announcement, which was made on Facebook, noted that the schools “will utilize inclement weather days.” In addition, “There will be no instruction via GoogleClassroom during this time period.”
The school further noted that “extracurricular activities, including athletic games and practices, will continue but must occur after normal school dismissal time.” The schools will resume normal operations on September 13.
Next week’s closures come as COVID-19 cases continue to climb. On Monday, an analysis from The Tennessee Department of Health found that children ages 0-18 years made up 38.5% of all new COVID-19 cases in the state of Tennessee. This is up from 35.7% from the prior week. On August 31, the number of statewide COVID-19 hospitalized patients hit 3,500. The number of statewide COVID-19 hospitalized pediatric patients hit 73. Meanwhile, there were 2,589 new cases reported among pediatrics alone.
Two weeks prior to Sumner County School’s decision to close, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote a letter stating Governor Bill Lee’s mask mandate opt-out “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal Law.”
As reported by The Tennessee Star, more than 1,000 individuals signed a petition to reinstate the mask mandate for Metro Nashville Schools – despite scant evidence that masking is effective at stopping the coronavirus from spreading.
On August 31, Lee was asked if he has any plans to take back his executive order requiring to opt-out of mask mandates at school. He replied, “We have no plan to change our mitigation strategies right now.” However, he did admit to the challenge the state is in, “We’re in almost the capacity of our hospitals that we had in December.”
In September 2020, The Star reported on the mounting concerns of lasting learning loss as a result of continued closures. Then, Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn estimated that “[r]eading proficiency among Tennessee third-graders is projected to drop by 50%, and math proficiency is projected to drop by 65% because of COVID-19-related school closures.”
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