In accordance with Tuesday afternoon's recommendation from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District announced that they will continue school closures through Friday, April 24, further postponing the re-opening of physical campuses formerly planned for April 6.
During this time, WCS plans to offer online and remote learning options, according to Jason Golden, the superintendent of WCS.
Additionally, FSSD will continue distributing its online and physical learning packets each week.
"Today’s student learning packet pickup was overwhelmingly positive," said Susannah Gentry, the communications director for FSSD, in an announcement Tuesday. "The number of packets picked up, as well as the number of families downloading the online packets, represents an incredible demonstration of your desire to support your children’s learning during this period of social distancing. The FSSD, your schools and its teachers will be in communication with you throughout this closure. We will let you know when new resources are available and how you may access them."
Gentry added that FSSD's free meal drive-thru and delivery will also continue.
State explores online options
Earlier in the month, Lee urged school districts across the state to close after spring break through the end of March due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Tennessee. However, the governor announced in a press conference Tuesday that he is extending this deadline due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus.
As this recommendation further chips away at the total number of school days for students, Lee said the state is looking into ways to continue learning remotely throughout the state.
"We are working to look at alternative ways for kids to learn through online educational opportunities," he said. "We just recently secured a partnership with PBS to offer instructional content in a short-term, in an interim period for kids while they're at home, through television, so we're working really hard to make sure our kids continue to learn while we have these school closures."
Lee said the state will continue to re-evaluate school closures as they assess the state of the coronavirus in the community.
WCS takes to Facebook Live
Wednesday afternoon, Golden joined WCS Communications Director Carol Birdsong on Facebook Live to give an update on the district's plans in the coming days and weeks.
Golden admitted that the district is a few days behind where it would like to be, but he said teachers and staff are working to provide additional instructional support during this at-home time.
He explained that, though completing online materials on the elementary, middle and high school levels is not required and will not be graded, he encourages students to participate during this time.
Starting Thursday, March 26, additional English language arts and math materials for elementary students will become available along with a recommended schedule through ClassLink.
Additionally, Birdsong said that individual school principals will communicate with families starting tomorrow on how to pick up physical packets for students with limited access to technology.
On the secondary level, WCS middle and high school courses have Google sites with class materials, and Golden said teachers are encouraged to continue to add extra materials and continue to keep in contact with families help students keep up with learning at home.
Golden said that, in this situation, requiring teachers to conduct live classes via video conferencing programs is impractical, but he encourages teachers to provide as many additional instructional materials as they wish.
"Many of our teachers are at home with their children," he said. "From a scheduling standpoint, locking them into a particular time of day where they must provide an online, direct relational class is a practical impossibility."
For those without an electronic device on which to access these supplementary materials, the schools are organizing Chromebook pickup dates for students. Starting Wednesday, March 25, high schools will communicate with families about how to pick up a Chromebook for their children. Instructions from middle and elementary schools will follow.
"We have limited Chromebooks available, so if you don't need one," Golden said. "We ask that you allow somebody who does need one to get it."
Golden added that the Tennessee Board of Education is meeting on April 9 to discuss graduation requirements, so the district will have more information about graduating high schoolers after that time, but he is determined to find a way to celebrate should the schools not be allowed to hold their traditional graduation ceremonies.
Additionally, the district encourages families in need of physical copies of transcripts, attendance records, or items left on campus to contact their individual schools.
"We want you to know that we're committed to your children," Golden said. "I believe that there's going to be some spiraling, some review when school starts back across the country next year because of the time this hit, but I know that, if we all work together, ... we can get through this."