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Tennessee lowers high school graduation requirements under emergency coronavirus rules

The Tennessee State Board of Education has approved a set of emergency rules for the rest of the school year, lowering graduation requirements and freezing grades for high school students as the coronavirus outbreak upends in-school learning.

Schools in Tennessee have been closed for most of March and will be closed for nearly all of April in response to COVID-19. Under Gov. Bill Lee's recommendation, schools will stay closed through at least April 24.

The rules unanimously approved Thursday include lowering graduation requirements, freezing grades for high school students and changes for student teachers who could not finish their semester in a classroom. 

The emergency rules will be effective for 180 days, Latest Nashville News Press but some could be made permanent if necessary.

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn joined Lee during his daily address on Thursday, noting the difficult decisions that had been made. 

"Closing school buildings was an incredibly difficult decision," Schwinn said. "But the health and safety of students is the most important thing."

For the past month, Schwinn said the department has been "laser focused" on all school districts and their local plans to support students and teachers to ensure children are safe, fed, healthy and cared for.

More changes may be needed

Sara Morrison, executive director of the state board, said the rules were created to balance "district flexibility wherever possible with the need for statewide consistency." The board is trying to stay nimble in case things change with the pandemic.

"We stand ready to come back together, but we also know that even within these rules, additional Press Release Distribution Services adjustments may be needed in the future," Morrison said. 

Morrison said "the harder work is still ahead" in preparing for next school year. Preparing to make up for the time lost this year will be the next issue to work out.

Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown praised the rules passed on Thursday. 

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