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School Board Suspends Policies Because of COVID-19

WEAKLEY COUNTY (May 7) — A variety of items on the agenda, during Thursday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Weakley County School Board, were discussed and acted upon.
Resolution Suspends
School Board Policies
The board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the emergency suspension of school board policies in response to statewide school closings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It deals with many of the problems associated with the coronavirus, including: grading, graduation requirements, teacher evaluations, attendance requirements, and director and board oversight.
The resolution notes on April 2, 2020, Gov. Bill Lee signed Public Chapter 652, which removed the requirement for TCAP testing and allowed the State Board of Education to promulgate necessary rules to address issues created by COVID-19 during the 2019-2020 school year.
The resolution further states that, on April 9, 2020, the State Board of Education revised several rules and policies in response to COVID-19, effective for the current school year.
Because changes made by the State Board of Education conflict with certain current local board policies, the Weakley County Board of Education suspended the following policies or provisions of its policies for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. This includes, but is not limited to those identified below, to the extent that they conflict with Public Chapter 652 or State Board of Education policies or rules and regulations for the school year.
Grading — Students taking courses for high school credit shall receive no grade lower than the grade they earned in the course as of March 20, 2020. Additionally, students taking post-secondary courses are not required to participate in the associated exam in order to receive GPA weighting for spring of 2020.
Graduation Requirements — For the class of 2020, graduation requirements are modified as follows:
• Only 20 credits are required to graduate in accordance with State Board of Education rules.
• The requirements are waived for ACT/SAT, civics exam, and end of course (EOC) exams.
• Students scheduled to receive an occupational diploma in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year shall only be required to demonstrate one year of work experience.
• Students shall not be required to take TCAP exams for the spring 2020 semester.
Teachers Evaluations — Regarding evaluation of teachers, the resolution states:
• The level of effectiveness scores shall not be generated for educators in the 2019-2020 school year.
• Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers shall not be evaluated using the growth portfolio model for the 2019-2020 school year.
• Any observations required by the State Board of Education’s policy that were not completed during the 2019-2020 school year.
• No student data from this year shall be allowed to negatively impact a teacher.
• Concerning the qualifications and duties of the director of schools, the director may request an extension from the State Board of Education to report information that would impact educator licensure, such as alleged employee misconduct, discipline of employees for actions that violate the teacher code of ethics.
Attendance — The amended attendance policy notes:
• Students may not be penalized for non-attendance of online courses.
• Non-attendance of online courses shall not count as unexcused absences and shall not be recorded. Further, students shall not be counted truant for failure to attend online courses.
Director and Board Oversight — The resolution stipulates the director of schools shall consult with the board regarding the implementation of board policies in alignment with Public Chapter 652 and updated state board policies, rules and regulations.
The board is to be notified if the director determines that additional policies or provisions not contained within the resolution are found to conflict with current State Board rules or policies.
Additionally, the director of schools may apply for any waiver or extension that ensures consistency with this resolution, board policies, and Public Chapter 652 or the State Board of Education policies or rules and regulations implemented to effectuate Public Chapter 652.
The director is also responsible for informing the board of any waiver or extension request made pursuant to the resolution.
Student Dress Code
The board also approved revisions to Weakley County Schools Dress Code.
The revised dress code adds the statement: “No skin must show between the shirt and pants in any position.”
It strikes the statements: “Students shall wear shirts tucked in at all times” and “Belts are to be worn in pants which have loops.”
School Board member John Hatler suggested allowing students to wear a wider assortment of spirit-ware clothing to school, in order to show school spirit for their home team. To provide time for school board members to develop a policy to accommodate these suggested changes, the issue was tabled until the next School Board meeting.
Budget Amendment
School Board members approved a resolution authorizing budget amendments to the General Purpose School Fund, which involves early childhood programs. The resolution makes revisions to the Coordinated School Health and the Early Childhood lines in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. The largest increase was for medical insurance, which jumped from $6,025 to $8,025, an increase of $2,000.
Other Board Actions
In other board action, Amy Tuck, counselor at Martin Elementary School, was granted tenure.
Additionally, the board adopted a list of English Language Arts and Literacy (ELA) textbooks to purchase this year, as recommended by Director of Weakley County Schools, Randy Frazier. The textbooks will be funded over a two-year period 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.
Another item for discussion was whether or not to pursue charges that could lead to the dismissal of a tenured Weakley County teacher. Neither the name of the teacher nor the nature of the charges was disclosed during the meeting. (See separate article, “Weakley County teacher facing possible dismissal on unnamed charges.”)
Discussion & Announcements
The board approved postponing graduation, which was originally May 15, to the weekend of June 12. He explained the dates were changed at the urging of the Weakley County Health Department. (See separate article, “Weakley County school officials plan graduation services.”)
All Weakley County schools begin report card distribution May 18 and will observe social distancing guidelines.
Mr. Frazier announced there is no summer school this year, due to the risks posed by the coronavirus.
Looking ahead, Mr. Frazier stated the Tennessee General Assembly will decide the school calendar for the 2019-2020 school year.
Right now, there are a lot of actions under consideration when students return to their classrooms, including: practicing social distancing, students coming every other day, bussing issues (double routes), hand sanitizers on buses, feeding in classrooms, teachers changing classrooms instead of students, infrared thermometers, and requiring students and staff to wear masks. “We’ll have to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Mr. Frazier said.
School Board Chairman Steve Vantrease announced the next school board meeting is 5 p.m., Thursday, June 4.

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