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Gov. Lee urging all Tennessee schools to close "as soon as practically possible" amid COVID-19 outbreak

The Governor said all schools are expected to close by Friday, March 20 and remain closed through March 31 to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued a statement Monday morning urging all schools in the state to close "as soon as practically possible."

The Governor said all schools are expected to close by Friday, March 20 and remain closed through March 31 to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

"Superintendents and local leadership have the full support of my administration to determine effective dates for closure this week as they evaluate what is best for families within their respective districts," Gov. Lee said. "We understand the tremendous burden school closure places on families and we will continue to work with both the federal government and school districts to ensure we continue essential supports like meals for students in need. Every Tennessean has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and I urge Tennesseans to be quick to help neighbors as new needs surface with the closure of schools.”

Several schools across East Tennessee have already closed in response to the virus' spread.

You can find a full list of closings here.

Gov. Lee said the state is working with the federal government to minimize the impact of the closures on families. On of those ways will be working to ensure children who depend on school meals will be able to continue receiving them despite the closures. Gov. Lee said it's not defined yet exactly how the food will be provided, but said some schools are already working to ensure kids are fed.

"Students who have no child care will be returning home. Parents who have jobs that require them to be out of the home will be facing dilemmas. I am urging Tennesseans to step up and be part of the solution," Gov. Lee said. "Yes, we will pursue funding and relief, but what we really need is for Tennesseans to step up and engage. If you are a church, you need to consider adopting a school. If you are a family who has an opportunity to keep a kid for a neighbor whose parents both work, you ought to consider helping that family through a time of transition." 

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said the Department of Education has been working overtime to communicate with districts and issue guidance to ensure critical meals and other services for students are continued during the closures.

“We thank Governor Lee for encouraging school districts to close through the end of the month in order to protect the health and wellbeing of Tennessee’s students, teachers, and entire communities across the state. Together with district leaders, our department’s top priority as we move forward is ensuring that students can stay healthy and have all the supports they need to continue learning," she said. 

The Department of Education said it will continually update guidance to school districts on its website: https://www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/update-on-coronavirus.html

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