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Weakley County Schools Might Not Reconvene This Year

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DRESDEN (April 2) — As Thursday night’s virtual meeting of the Weakley County School Board got underway, Director of Schools Randy Frazier gave an update regarding the School Department’s response to school closings due to COVID-19.
The big news revealed by Director Frazier is the possibility schools might not reconvene for the 2019-2020 school year.
“I anticipate that we’ll hear in the next few days that we are closing school for the rest of the year,” Frazier said.
“The questions I’m getting and probably you all are getting are probably going to be addressed in that meeting next week.” He mentioned one of the requirements that will probably be altered is the number of days students are required to attend school each year.
House Bill 2818 also grants the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, Dr. Penny Schwinn, the authority to waive the 180-day attendance requirement for K-12 public school students. The new legislation also waives the civics test requirement for high school seniors on track to graduate in 2020.
“There will be no testing in our state this year,” Frazier said. “Teacher evaluations, school accountability will be suspended for one year.”
He noted teacher licenses that expired in the fall of 2020 will be extended to August 2021.
He stated another topic sure to be addressed by the State Board of Education is grading. He mentioned there are three or four options on the table being considered. One is to count student’s grades according to what their average was at the end of the first semester. A second option is to count the grades as of March 23, 2020, which was the last day schools were open in Tennessee and calculate those grades with the first semester to come up with an average. A third option is having a “pass or fail” grade for students.
Devising a method to determine students’ grade point averages will also be considered.
Frazier stated another controversial matter will be graduation. “The law clearly states that no student will be punished academically due to closure,” he said. “If they were eligible to graduate on March 23, and their grades were in good shape, they should be able to graduate, even if they do not return to school.” This would also apply to students moving from a lower to higher grade (such as 3rd to 4th grade).
Another issue raised by Frazier involves borderline students, who were trying to get their grades up in order to graduate from high school when schools closed. He stated, after the State Board of Education decides what to do, the Weakley County School System will be reaching out to seniors to help them pull up their grades, so they can graduate. He noted this may be done using technology. Frazier said if the students can earn at least a 70 it will be enough for them to graduate.

In addition, he expressed his concern for the graduates that they have the opportunity to attend graduation ceremonies and enjoy the family celebrations, just like graduates in previous years have done. He said these things may be in jeopardy.
Frazier stated some of the other school districts in Tennessee are allowing students to do extra homework to improve their grades. He said some school systems are sending large packets of work and telling the students, if they complete the work and turn it back in, they will receive credit for it. However, Frazier said, “Sending work home has resulted in a lot of negative criticism. The validity of the work being completed by the person you send it to is sometimes called into question. Plus, it may not be possible to provide this option to all students, since some might not have access to the internet. I’m not sure, unless the State mandates that, we can fairly do something that would allow everyone to improve their grades. When it comes to credit recovery, the highest grade those students can make is a 70, which is the minimum requirement.”
Regarding the possibility of having Summer School, Frazier stated that it will depend on the status of the COVID-19 health crisis. “I would favor that,” he said. “It would be a best case scenario.”
As for hosting graduation ceremonies later this year, Frazier said he would be totally in favor of doing so. He stated graduation ceremonies could possibly take place in June or July.
According to Frazier, a survey sent out from the State asks the question, “How does your district plan to make up for the learning lost during this closure?” The options listed are:
1. During the summer of 2020
2. During the Summer of 2021
3. Extending the school days in 2021
4. Extending the school year in 2021
5. Other
Frazier stated he plans on responding to the survey by choosing “Other” because there may not be funding available to pay for the additional time teachers would have to work.
“We know there is going to be some gap when we come back, but I have enough confidence in our teachers that they will do things to get everything back on track,” Frazier said. He stated if there are students that are still lagging behind, they will have the option of attending Summer School in 2021.

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