By JONATHAN MATTISE Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville's school year will start off virtually instead of in person due to the growing spread of COVID-19, local school officials announced Thursday.
Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Adrienne Battle said students won't be returning to classrooms from the Aug. 4 start of the school year until through at least Labor Day.
"This will allow social distancing, mask mandates and other measures to take effect and reduce the spread of COVID-19 before tens of thousands of students and staff return to our schools, which could potentially spread the disease among our people and in the community if we're not careful," Battle said at a news conference.
Battle says Nashville has seen some of its worst daily totals for COVID-19 confirmed cases in the last week, as cases rise nationally as well. Tennessee reported another 1,600 confirmed cases Thursday, while Nashville reported another 688, the city's highest single-day total since the pandemic began.
The decision to start the year with remote classes comes a day after President Donald Trump threatened to hold back federal money if school districts don't bring their students back in the fall.
State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and state Health Commissioner visited the White House on Wednesday for discussions on reopening schools.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee spoke on a conference call Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence, some other governors and federal officials, saying the state's efforts are "focused heavily on ensuring that as many schools and as many districts open their schools in person."
Schwinn has highlighted $50 million in federal money that she said will pay for one-third of the cost of computers for every 3rd through 12th grade student in the state.
In Nashville, every student will be assigned a device this year for learning at home or in the classroom, Battle said.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Tennessee labor officials reported that more than 25,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week. The number of jobless people in the state remains higher than normal due to businesses being closed or limited in capacity during the virus response.
The state paid $260 million in unemployment benefits to more than 275,000 people during the week that ended Saturday, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development said Thursday.
The entire total came in the form of federal funds distributed under the federal emergency assistance package created to deal with financial effects from the virus response.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.