TREND Spring 2020 | Page 20

closed through at least April 24. As more individuals are tested, it is expected that the number of infected will rise in the United States and Tennessee, which means more possibilities for students and school staff to test positive for the virus or have been in contact with someone who has. While there are not currently any warnings or restrictions regarding domestic travel, with families across Tennessee traveling out-of-state for Spring Breaks in coming weeks, there are bound to be increased concerns. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville announced the suspension of all in-person classes and began offering them online due to concerns about the coronavirus on March 23, while determinations regarding final exams and graduation are yet to be made. Several public-school districts in other parts of the United States are also preparing for school closures, with some districts informing students that closure could last as long as 30 days or more. This could push instruction well into the summer months, and will certainly impact the academic calendar. Teacher salaries are one of the only increases for wages that were not cut in the new, scaled-down budget How does this impact student learning and what can be done to lessen the disrupted instruction? Distance or online learning is one manner some districts could consider for continuing instruction. However, most district schools, students, and educators are not ready to quickly switch to online and distance learning models. Even where students have been issued laptops and tablets, there is no guarantee that they will have access to the internet at home. Some students do not do well in a cyber environment, as distance learning is not always effective without proper supervision. STATE-LEVEL IMPACTS AND RESPONSE Professional Educators of Tennessee issued the statement on the right on March 16, 2020, urging the Tennessee General Assembly to take action to mitigate the repercussions of the pandemic on educators and students, especially in regard to attendance and assesments. We appluad the Tennessee General Assembly for passing legislation to address these issues before recessing the current legislative session. First and foremost, we applaud the Governor and the Department of Education for seeking and receiving nutrition waivers from the Federal Government to ensure that students will continue to be fed despite school closures. This is critical for countless families across the state. Second, we support the joint effort of the Tennessee General Assembly, Governor Bill Lee, and Commissioner Penny Schwinn to craft legislation to suspend mandatory testing and accountability and to ensure that any lengthy school closures will not adversely affect our students, teachers, or schools. We have offered our input and appreciate the opportunity to have our voices heard on this critical joint effort in uncertain times. It takes everyone working together, something Governor Lee understands as we navigate these unchartered times together. We offer our full support. Tennessee is a resilient state made up of incredible people with a generous spirit. We are certain