Cumberland County schools will remain closed through April 24, Director of Schools Janet Graham announced Wednesday. 

The closure follows the recommendation of Gov. Bill Lee to keep schools closed as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to rise.

“We know this is a long period of time, and that many of our students are eager to return to their normal routines,” Graham said in a statement. “In light of our concern for the health and well-being of our community, we feel it is in our best interest to remain closed.”

The school system will soon be announcing information for an “interim” academic plan to keep students academically engaged. 

School systems across the state are grappling with how to continue serving students who may have limited or no internet access at home. 

The state announced a partnership with WCTE-TV, the PBS affiliate serving the Upper Cumberland, and five other stations across the state to provide two hours of instructional programming from 10 a.m. to noon beginning April 6. Stations will also air four hours of instructional content overnight, which families can record.

The content will be developed and provided by Tennessee educators in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education. 

“This is an incredible example of Tennesseans coming together to support kids,” said Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We are so thrilled to be partnering with PBS stations across the state to make high-quality instructional content available to all students so they can continue learning during school closures. Families and students are hungry for content right now, and we are grateful our local stations have stepped up to help fill this need.” 

Schwinn said efforts are under way to provide radio broadcasts, as well, to reach students who may not have television or internet access at home.

"This new partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education will work to meet our shared mission of ensuring every child is inspired and educated, regardless of their circumstances.” said Becky Magura, president and CEO of WCTE in Cookeville. “This programming will help ensure students without access to the internet or other instructional materials will still have access to high-quality instruction during these school closures. For decades, we have been committed to inspiring and educating students for decades, and now more than ever, those services are critical."  

The Cumberland County school system has curated a list of free online instructional resources for parents hoping to continue their child’s education from home.

“Note the suggested resources we have had online are just that,” Graham said. “We are certainly at this point not requiring any participation, but wish to accommodate those students and parents who desire to have activities for use.”

Last week, Cumberland County schools released a link to online resources for all students, kindergarten through high school: bit.ly/ccschoolscovid19.

Tuesday, Cumberland County Mayor Allen Foster announced Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative Fiber had installed wireless access points at Winesap Freewill Baptist Church off Hwy. 101 and a hotspot at the Nine Mile Volunteer Fire Department on Old Hwy. 28. Each can provide bandwidth in the parking areas of the facilities for people to use for online shopping, school access or telehealth needs.

Schwinn said some school systems have been developing lesson packets that are sent home through meal pick-up sites. She pointed to several school systems where online lessons have been provided or partnerships formed with community organizations or law enforcement to help get resources to families.

There are questions about how school systems can best serve students with special needs.

Schwinn said the state is seeking additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Education. She communicates with directors of schools with multiple calls each week. 

“We want to make sure that every single child has access to some level of instruction at home and the accommodations that will be necessary to support those students is something we’re working on,” she said. 

 

 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.