MNPS teacher union pleading for all grades, classes to transition to virtual learning through end of semester

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Our state’s recent spike in coronavirus cases is creating problems for schools, including the Metro Nashville Public School district.

On Friday, October 23, Dr. Battle called for a pause in the plan to return MNPS to in-person classes because of increased spread of the coronavirus in Nashville. However, the teachers union, Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA), says it doesn’t go far enough and that all grades should turn now to virtual learning.

“In just one week, the district saw 58 confirmed cases and 325 quarantines due to COVID-19,” Amanda Kail, said, President of MNEA. As of last week, MNPS had 138 staff members quarantined, 28 of whom tested positive for COVID and just under 300 students quarantined with 17 test results coming back positive.

“The disruption this is causing, the chaos, this is causing… the benefits are not enough to outweigh the cost,” Kail said. “We’re having schools having so many teachers quarantining they’re having a hard time keeping their doors open.”

Kail added that the union continues to be inundated by phone calls and emails from desperate educators and administrators who report they don’t have the capacity to safely run their schools.

Nashville’s COVID-19 numbers rise, returning students to in-person classes will only cause more disruption to student learning. In addition, MNPS does not have the capacity to create the conditions such as small class sizes that allow for social distancing or updated ventilation systems to keep students and staff safe due to years of chronic underfunding. As we watch Nashville’s COVID-19 numbers climb to alarming levels, we must acknowledge too many MNPS students and staff are spending their days in crowded, poorly ventilated classrooms. 

Simply put, the human cost of keeping classes in-person outweighs the benefits. Reverting to online classes will mean every student will continue to have access to synchronous learning, and we can make sure everyone is kept safe. Instead of stretching the very limited resources of MNPS even further to try to do online and in-person classes simultaneously, we can focus on doing online well by providing the supports necessary for our students to succeed with virtual learning, and ensuring our families have what they need during this difficult time. 

Kail wrote in a statement to News 2 Tuesday

“As much as we want to get back to normal if people really want us back in schools we  have got to bring those numbers down we have to control the community spread,” Kail said. “I think teachers have significant concerns so you know as MNEA were going to continue to push to make sure they’re protected.”

Though, as current data shows us, there are no more than five positive results at any one school in the district, Kail thinks it’s important MNPS commit to one method of learning, preferably virtual.

“Make the commitment to stay online for at least the semester,” Kail said. “Atlanta has committed to do it for the year and while we know that’s difficult for parents it allows them to at least plan.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s board meeting, Sean Braisted, MNPS Spokesman replied saying this:

“MNPS will continue to closely monitor and evaluate safety conditions in our schools for students and staff who are in-person. Our School Nurse Program is a partnership with the Metro Public Health Department and assist with contract tracing efforts to limit potential spread or transmission of the coronavirus in our schools. Masks are required for all students and staff, and we will continue to supply schools and classrooms with the PPE, disinfecting supplies, guidance and support needed to keep students and staff as safe as possible.”

Sean Braisted, MNPS Spokesman

Discussions around closing schools to K-4 is not on the agenda tonight, the increase in COVID-19 cases in the district will likely be a topic of discussion.

News 2 will bring you updates as we receive them.

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are moving forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.

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

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