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What a virtual start to MNPS academic year will look like for parents, students, teachers

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Back to school file photo (FOX 17 News)

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Instead of returning to the classroom on August 4th, Metro Nashville Public Schools will start off the academic year remotely, as Metro Schools Director Dr. Adrienne Battle announced the shift to virtual classrooms Thursday.

The original goal for Metro Schools this fall was to give parents an option: send their children to in-person class or attend virtually.

Now, the district's 86,000 students will be learning online, starting August 4th through at least Labor Day, which is September 7th. School leaders will assess the situation at that time to determine the course of action for the rest of the semester.

Dr. Battle says Metro's increasing transmission, case numbers and positivity rates of COVID-19 factored into this major decision.

"I'm not a public health expert, but I've grown increasingly uncomfortable with the data and information in front of us and the implications for the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff," Dr. Battle said.

It's not lost on MNPS parent TC Weber how challenging this will be.

"To make preparations for the family to figure out who's going to take care of what, who's going to monitor the kids, I work from home, how am I going to balance that at? How are we still going to be able to put food on the table while making sure our kids stay educated, so there's a lot to consider, a lot of moving parts, and very little time to adapt to those moving parts," Weber said.

Still, Weber says the current climate isn't presenting any completely positive solutions.

"As a parent, I've got trepidation, but I was going to have trepidation any way we went, so there was going to be no plan that would totally get rid of that fear."

Here's how it's going to work: Dr. Battle says despite the current delay on laptops due to high demand, they'll still provide devices to students who don't already have one. They'll also distribute around 17,000 hot spots to households without internet connection.

Each school day will consist of 6.5 hours of learning, both through virtual classroom settings and independent work time.

Dr. Battle said there will also be an emphasis on Social Emotional Learning, or SEL.

"A primary focus of our first days and weeks when we return to classes in a virtual setting will be assessing the traumatic experiences that students or their families may have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Battle said.

This announcement also comes after Vice President Mike Pence announced that schools returning to in-person classes will receive certain incentives. FOX 17 News asked Dr. Battle what MNPS is giving up by switching to virtual learning.

"I think what's most important for us is to prioritize the safety of our students, our employees, and our families and with this plan, that's what we have continued to rely upon and prioritize," Dr. Battle said.

She did not further elaborate on specifics.

MNPS also plans to implement regular one-on-one check-ins between students and staff.

The virtual plan will include a new technology support line for non-English speaking families.

Another big thing to consider with this plan is breakfast and lunch for students. Meals will be served via bus routes and by grab and go at schools, but cafeterias will be closed, and eating on-site will not be permitted.

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Click here to learn more about the virtual plan for the start of the 2020 MNPS year.

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