Gov. Bill Lee released on Tuesday his plan to reopen schools across Tennessee.
The governor expects most districts will return to in-person in the next few weeks and for contact sports to return.
“I think the decisions to reopen schools are based on the health and safety of children,” Lee told reporters. “I think we’ve outlined the risks associated with children not being in school.”
Health and education officials have worried about child abuse and hunger when kids are out of schools.
The Lee administration’s guidelines include quarantining for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or who comes in contact with someone who has tested positive. Meanwhile, the state will provide personal protective equipment to teachers and staff.
Lee said he is confident the protocols the state Department of Education has put in place will make it safe for students to return to the classrooms, and he said in-person learning is the best option for students.
“We also believe that districts should open on time,” Lee said.
The governor warned that reopening won’t be easy, but that planned delays should only be reserved for hardest cases.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn told reporters that, as of Tuesday, 145 of 147 school districts have plans to open in person this year. Some have told the state they will delay the in-person reopening.
Schwinn warned of positive cases in the schools as students start going back. Last week, Alcoa City Schools began welcoming students back and, two days later, the district reported its first COVID-19 case.
“A reasonable expectation is there will be positive cases in the schools — that is something that is going to happen,” Schwinn said. “What is important is that we have all of the safety and health protocols in place to ensure that folks have the resources they need.”