KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Due to Gov. Bill Lee’s recommendation closing all schools until April 24, the Tennessee Board of Education voted Thursday on emergency COVID-19 rules detailing how to proceed with the school year.

One change the emergency rules change for education policies is that students won’t be given an unexcused absence or reported as truant due to any absences while the schools are closed.

The emergency rules also changed requirements for graduating seniors.

The grades that seniors had on March 20th is the lowest their grades can be.

Ben Downs, principal of Anderson County High School, listened to the state board of education’s conference call, and said if a student had a bad grade, they would still be able to change it.

“They can improve those grades, they just can’t go backwards from where those grades were at. So whatever their grade was on March 20th, especially with us being one-to-one, students can improve those grades, they just can’t go backwards any,” Downs said.

Downs said that all Anderson County high and middle school students have Google Chromebooks at home, but it doesn’t mean that all students have access to internet service.

That’s one reason why the board of education changed the attendance policy under the emergency rules.

Downs said his school was providing any other kind of material students might need in case they didn’t have access to internet service.

Another change made under the emergency rules was the number of credits seniors are required to have to graduate.

During a normal school year, seniors needs at least 22 credits to graduate, but under the emergency rules, the board of education changed it to 20.

“My concern was for seniors, was those students who hadn’t had, you know, the government econ and some of those credits they have to have as seniors and what that was going to look like,” Downs said, but his question was answered.

End-of-course exams are no longer needed as well.

“A student in the 12th grade in the 2019-20 school year shall not have End-of-Course exams
scheduled to occur in the spring semester of the 2019-20 school year count as a
percentage of a student’s final grade in a course with an associated End-of-Course exam.”

TN State BOE COVID-19 Emergency Rules

Certain exams, such as AP exams, are still required, but will now be taken online.

One senior says doing everything online, especially the AP course, has been a little more difficult from home.

“In an AP class you prepare to take that test specifically, and so since the test has changes, it just kind of changed the way we’re learning,” Abbey Charles, an Anderson County High School senior, said.

She and another senior from Anderson County High School, Kaden Tackett, said there are a lot of aspects of senior year they are missing out on.

If school doesn’t return by the end of the semester, senior students will miss out on the senior lunch and senior walkout, something they know as traditions that every senior usually participates in every year.

Charles missed a band concert, and Tackett was only able to play three games of baseball for his last season.

One thing both students are worried about is if they will have an actual graduation ceremony.

“I don’t want to have a, you know, an online graduation, but I think it will be ok and I’m sure our teachers and the staff at school will figure it out,” Tackett said.

Speaking of teachers, Downs said he wanted to thank all his faculty and staff for putting in the extra effort of teaching classes while at home.

He also said he misses both his students and his faculty.

Downs said he was waiting on the state to decide what will happen about graduation, but his staff has been thinking about some back ups.

To read the COVID-19 Emergency rules, click here.