MNPS parents and board members weigh in on phase-in proposal

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Over the weekend Metro Nashville Public Schools shared a proposal to phase students back into the classroom.

Back in March, at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the district went to remote learning. This fall, classes resumed again, virtually.

The phase-in plan proposes the district’s youngest students return on October 13 and high school students return in January.

Members of the coalition, Let Nashville Parents Choose, spoke with News 2 about the plan.

“I’m a pediatric nurse practitioner. There are a lot of children and healthy families that are suffering mentally and physically because they [students] are not in school,” coalition member Nicole Corey said.

Todd Cassetty, also a member, said, “The students in county schools all around Davidson are back in classrooms, all the private schools are back in classrooms. Why is it not important for Metro Nashville public students to be back.”

Over half of the Metro Nashville School Board has expressed its support of the timeline.

MNPS member Fran Bush has openly expressed her disapproval.

“We’re going to pay for this in the long run and what I mean by that is even though we’re doing the best we can with virtual learning, when we do finally transition back, full time, teachers are going to work double to get these kids caught up,” Bush said.

Bush said she believes it is possible for students to safely return sooner. She added that she believes the proposed timeline is a reflection of poor planning.

“So now we pushed it back after Labor Day and now we’re back after Fall Break, so that definitely sends a very uncomfortable pattern of not planning,” Bush said.

Metro Schools Director Dr. Adrienne Battle shared this response with News 2 in regards to these critiques:

“Our team has been planning for various scenarios for months. We believe the phased-in approach is the safest and least disruptive way to return students at every grade level to our schools.”

Member Christiane Buggs said this in response to the phase-in timeline:

“Though one board member has made her thoughts singularly clear, the MNPS Board of Education firmly supports the thoughtful plan developed by Dr. Battle and her team to meet the diverse needs of our entire community. This plan, that takes into consideration all 85,000 learners in our district, is a well-reasoned approach that has been in the works for months. It continues to evolve based on data and conversations with families & staff.”

Member Rachael Anne Elrod shared this in response:

“Everyone within MNPS wants students to be able to be in their classroom(s), but our ability to do so is dependent on the public health of Nashville. I am grateful and glad that we are experiencing a sustained downward trend with the city’s numbers and that parents may choose between remote learning and in-person learning. I understand the frustrations and mental load some families are experiencing – I am not immune to any of it as a board member and a parent. I want Dr. Battle and MNPS leadership to continue to make decisions during this pandemic with a focus on scientific data and expert opinion while considering staff and parent feedback.

The school board’s role is within procedures and policies, not personnel and programs. If a board member has a concern about school programming, they are to work within the board’s standard of governance instead of grandstanding. All board members are to hold themselves to a productive, thoughtful, and transparent standard as representatives of MNPS and as elected officials.”

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