Report: Tennessee 6th least safe state to reopen schools amid COVID-19


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As more and more middle Tennessee schools return to in-person schooling, WalletHub is out with a new survey that parents likely won’t find comforting.

The company released its report on the safest states for schools to reopen Monday… ranking Tennessee as the 6th least safe state. Ouch!

To identify which states have the safest conditions for reopening schools, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 15 key metrics.

School Reopening Safety in Tennessee (1=Safest, 25=Avg.):

  • 48th – Child COVID-19 Cases per 100,000 Children
  • 39th – Child COVID-19 Deaths per 100,000 Children
  • 44th – COVID-19 Cases in the Last Seven Days per 100,000 Residents
  • 32nd – Share of K-12 Public School Students Transported Through School Transportation
  • 36th – Average Public-School Class Size
  • 32nd – Pupil-Teacher Ratio
  • 38th – Share of Seniors Living with School-Age Children
  • 21st – Share of Children Living in Crowded Housing
  • 25th – Overall Likelihood of COVID-19 Infections
  • 22nd – Student-to-School-Nurse Ratio

 “There are some important metrics here where Tennessee ranks last or very close to last,” Jill Gonzalez, analyst for WalletHub said. “One being the most important is that Tennessee has the most child COVID-19 cases in the country about 10 times higher than let’s say Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, so that’s obviously one metric that needs to change.”

“Tennessee also has the 4th highest COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 children as well.”

Data also shows pupil-teacher ratio, average public school class size, and share of seniors living with school-age children are all below average.

According to the State Health Department around 9,500 cases are attributed to those 10 and under, including five deaths.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, the number of COVID-19 cases in school-aged children (5-18) over the last 14 days is sitting just over 2,250 with about 366 cases being traced back to students and employees at public elementary, secondary schools, and public charter schools in Middle Tennessee.

Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Academy of Pediatrics, The COVID Tracking Project, Kaiser Family Foundation, School Bus Fleet Magazine, National Center for Education Statistics, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and more.

News 2 reached out to the State Department of Education, they sent the following response Monday evening.

  • The majority of metrics in this study would reflect pre COVID numbers and are not reflective of what we are seeing in schools.
  • Districts are empowered to make local decisions for schools based on COVID in their communities, and most districts are offering in person options for families as a result of feedback from their community.
  • Across Tennessee, a majority of districts opened in-person and schools have either remained open or have closed temporarily to reopen soon after.
  • Of schools that provided an in-person option, roughly 99% are open for in-person learning at any given time. This trend has been consistent for the 8+ weeks schools have been open in the state.
  • Educators, staff, and school and district leaders are working incredibly hard to do what’s best for students.
  • This success is due to the hard work and dedication of folks on the ground putting students’ education and health as the top priority.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


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