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Tennessee schools can request waiver to move to remote learning due to COVID-19

In a letter, education Commissioner Peggy Schwinn said schools and classrooms can now request to implement remote learning if COVID-19 cases surge.
Credit: WBIR

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee's education commissioner says classrooms and schools facing a surge in COVID-19 cases and quarantines can request a temporary shift to remote instruction if their districts can show a need.

In a letter dated Friday, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Peggy Schwinn said that while she remains committed to in-person instruction, schools and classrooms can now seek a waiver to state Board of Education rules that prevent districts from unilaterally requiring students to implement remote learning.

Schwinn spoke with district leaders Monday morning and answered questions.

Districts are not allowed to implement district-wide remote learning. Schwinn said the waivers are only allowed to be requested for individual schools and classrooms. 

Schools would need to prove COVID-19 infections are preventing in-person instruction from taking place through critical staff absences, substitute shortfalls or a significant portion of students being absent.

Schwinn said schools that made the decision to move to remote learning due to COVID-19 absences prior to Friday will be able to submit waivers retroactively this week, but said this does not apply to schools that used non-instruction days off to deal with widespread absences.

The letter comes as some school districts in Tennessee have been forced to close due to an increase in coronavirus cases and quarantines that led to critical staff shortages.

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