The Tennessee Department of Education has been granted several key waivers from federal agencies to allow significantly more flexibility at state and local levels during school building closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Here in Tennessee, we have moved swiftly to proactively request waivers for certain federal requirements in order to remove as many barriers as possible for districts that are working hard to get services to students – and this has led to more flexibility, sooner than most other states,” said Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.
“We will remain fully committed to supporting educators and school and district leaders who are doing incredible work for students and families during this time.”
In addition to several other nutrition-related waivers, Tennessee recently received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to grant flexibilities on requirements for area eligibility for school nutrition programs, which enables all Tennessee school districts, not just Title 1 districts, to provide children under age 18 with nutritious meals they may not otherwise have received. Typically, School Food Authorities may only service meals at sites which meet the area requirements, where at least 50 percent of children must qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Tennessee’s request to waive area eligibility requirements can be found here and approval can be found here.
Additionally, Tennessee received approval on its request to the U.S. Department of Education to waive statewide assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the 2019-2020 school year. Tennessee submitted an initial detailed waiver request for ESEA assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements on March 16, ahead of the USEd announcement that the Department would issue blanket waivers for any state impacted by coronavirus-related school closures. TDOE quickly submitted the required document the same day, on March 20.
The two requests are here (Submitted 3.16.20) and here (Submitted 3.20.20). TDOE received approval of the March 20 waiver request on Friday. USEd will consider the additional components in the March 16 waiver request separately.
These waiver requests and approvals, along with other guidance documents, resources and waivers are available to schools and districts on the Tennessee Department of Education’s coronavirus webpage