Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools closed buildings and either canceled or postponed all athletics and activities until May 1 after the Tennessee General Assembly voted Thursday to waive the required 180-days of instruction, as well as assessment testing, for the current school year.
Local school officials released an email Thursday afternoon that said all school buildings will be closed and all athletics and activities, including practices and before- and after-school programs and events were canceled or postponed through May 1. Officials said the current plan is for students to return to school May 4, but the date could change, depending on a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Health Department officials.
Officials said they are working to provide students with continued learning opportunities that would be shared in the next few days and encouraged people to visit cmcss.net for detailed information.
The state House voted 92-0 to approve the school waiver measure. The Senate was also unanimous with a vote of 29-0.
The bills came about due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered schools across the state, as well as the March 3 tornadoes, which tore through Wilson and Davidson counties, among others.
“Students are missing school at the direction of the governor and president,” said Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Williamson County, who sponsored the bill. “This puts us in a precedent that in all likelihood, students, schools and teachers will not meet the state requirements to move to the next grade, to take assessment tests and the necessary things to evaluate teachers and districts.”
Johnson said the bills “more or less wipe the slate clean for teachers, students and schools for remain of school year. We hope the virus will subside and students will go back to school. But it could be the fall before they get back to school.”
As approved, the students will not be required to go to schools for the full 180-days, as mandated by the General Assembly. The annual TNReady testing, which was to take place next month, was also waived.
Johnson said school districts could still test the students if the district wishes. However, he stressed they would not be required to do so.
“Student growth scores can be used to help the teachers,” Johnson said. “But if it will hurt the teacher, they do not have to be used.”
The same goes for the final grade, he said. Unless the grades would help the student’s overall grade, the grades do not have to be reflected.
Individual school and school district assessments were also waived for the current school year, according to the bill.
With the changes to the law for the school year, the school districts will continue to receive full state funding, Johnson said.
The state will now seek waivers for the state’s schools from the U.S. Department of Education.
“This bill will ensure that no senior affected will fail to receive a diploma if they were on track and ready to receive it,” Johnson said.
For student teachers, the bill also waived the requirements for the number of days teaching to receive a teaching license, Johnson said.
“The state board has the flexibility to give licenses to teachers who have not met the requirements for the time needed for student teaching,” he said.
The bill numbers were HB2818 and SB2672. The full bills can be found on the individual chamber’s websites at capitol.tn.gov.