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Tennessee appoints COVID-19 task force focused on children

Staff Reports • Jun 24, 2020 at 8:15 AM

NASHVILLE — Kingsport Superintendent of Schools Jeff Moorhouse has been appointed to a 38-member COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force, the Tennessee Department of Education recently announced.

"I am excited to be able to be involved in examining the impact of COVID-19 and in developing the best path forward to meet the needs of Tennessee's children,” Moorhouse said. “This is vital work in determining how we can support the needs of our students by identifying the resources and plans necessary to best rebound from our school closure."

The TDOE last week announced members and objectives of the statewide task force, which was convened to support the holistic needs of Tennessee children in response to extended school building closures. Gov. Bill Lee charged Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn to convene the group in response to the pandemic’s long-term effects on Tennessee’s school districts and students. The goal of the task force is to help communities come together to check on our kids.

“The Child Wellbeing Task Force will work to ensure that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing,” Schwinn said. “I am encouraged by these dedicated individuals from across the state who have stepped up to serve.”

The department’s strategic plan, Best for All, prioritizes the whole child as one of three priority areas.

The Task Force will operate with the following concrete objectives:

— Empowering local implementation: Identify local infrastructure, relationships and resources to promote supports for students and families.

— Supporting rapid response for late summer and back-to-school 2020: Develop a set of action items that local communities may utilize over the summer and throughout the traditional back-to-school season to support the needs of children.

— Determining ongoing support for academic year 2020-2021: Develop a set of action items that local communities may utilize to support the needs of children when school resumes in the fall of 2020.

The task force will produce the following deliverables:

— By July 6, it will produce a postmortem report on the impacts of school closures on critical services to children that occurred across the state and will identify opportunities for locally established and maintained infrastructure.

— By July 10, it will provide guidance for conducting child wellbeing checks during the summer and/or throughout back-to-school season as children begin a new school year.

— By July 24, it will provide guidance for community-based child wellbeing checks, services and supports throughout the academic year.

— By Oct. 2, it will develop the pandemic preparation toolkit, outlining a more comprehensive set of recommendations, action items and planning tools for local communities for any future school closures.

— By Dec.11, it will produce a report to the governor summarizing the work of the group and making recommendations for the future.

The members of the group include lawmakers, educators and leaders of community and business groups, as well as others. The group will convene bi-monthly through June and July, with monthly meetings August through December.

Reopening toolkits and guidance is available on the department’s reopening guidance webpage: https://www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/update-on-coronavirus/reopening-guidance.html.

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