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Monday, June 29, 2020
Good evening, awesome SCS colleagues.

As you may have heard by now, Governor Bill Lee extended his state of emergency declaration today as cases of coronavirus continue to soar in Tennessee . I'm sure this has led to some questions and concerns among employees as we continue to prepare for the reopening of schools and offices, so I felt it was important to provide an update.

Based on Governor Lee's order, Tennessee will remain in a state of emergency  until at least August 29 . Stats released earlier today show Tennessee has nearly 15,000 active cases of coronavirus, averaging about 43 new virus-related hospitalizations per day —  the highest rate so far during the pandemic.

Planning for re-entry will continue, but be assured we are monitoring the latest developments shared by health officials every day, and the health and safety of our staff and the families we serve will always remain our highest priority. Based on the Governor's announcement, I am considering a shift in the start and end of the 2020-21 school year, and we'll be seeking input from educators and families on this option as well. To clarify, my considerations would not alter the structure or number of days in the current instructional calendar. It is only a matter of shifting dates in response to the latest COVID-19 developments so we can continue to prioritize health and safety.

In the meantime, I want to update you on the results of our recent 2020-21 instructional calendar survey. After meeting with our District Teacher Advisory Council, having extended conversations with our incoming United Education Association President Danette Stokes, and based on the overwhelming responses from our teachers, parents and stakeholders who completed the survey, we are maintaining our current (175-day) Board-approved calendar , adding OPTIONAL fall, spring and weekend academies planned throughout the year to address learning loss for students. 

Finally, as a follow-up from discussions at our community listening sessions, I am making a formal request to Governor Lee, the General Assembly and the Commissioner of Education to cancel spring testing for the 2020-21 school year. I will ask that the state disarms the punitive nature of the test and holds students, teachers and schools harmless for the outcomes.

As always, I appreciate your steadfast support and collaboration.
Dr. Joris M. Ray,