COVID-19 and the Challenge of Going Back to School


In Tennessee and across the world educators are facing tough decisions about whether to resume in-person instruction as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads. At the beginning of the pandemic, in an effort to prevent the continued spread of the virus, governments and municipalities everywhere closed schools. While it may have helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, school closures have also negatively impacted the well-being of many children and youth.

Most notably, students in many at-risk communities who were moved to online learning may not have the computer equipment or internet needed for un-interrupted online learning. For young students in particular, in-person learning is essential for brain and social development.  

In Tennessee, some school districts have chosen a hybrid plan of in-person and online learning while larger districts continue to struggle with the decision on whether to go back to in person learning as case numbers continue to rise across nearly every county in the state. The new year is just around the corner and when students prepare to head back to class, however that looks, it’ll be important to support your children’s educational needs the best you can.  

If your child’s school district is allowing you to choose between in-person and online learning it will be important to stay up to date on the latest data in each county. The Department of Education has created a detailed COVID-19 case number map that details each school district’s COVID-19 numbers. You’ll also find updates on the number of students and staff statewide who have contracted COVID-19. Data on student and staff COVID-19 positive cases, as well as operating models, is self-reported by districts.

Last fall, the CDC released key indicators to help school districts make decisions about in-person learning as things continue to evolve throughout the pandemic. In Tennessee, the Lee  administration, along with multiple state agencies, including the Department of Education and the Department of Health, partnered to create a web site that offers resources for the safe return to school and child care.