Parent, pediatrician and state health commissioner Lisa Piercey on her own kids going back to school

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — If you’re a mom with four kids, the upcoming school year poses many questions. If you’re also a pediatrician who happens to be the state’s health commissioner, the well-being of students across Tennessee is part of your job.

That’s the balancing act for Dr. Lisa Piercey who finds herself navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as both a parent and the state’s top health official.

“I am in a bit of a unique position because this is what I work on all day, but I do have four children,” said Commissioner Piercey Wednesday during a COVID-19 briefing with Governor Bill Lee.

Three of the commissioner’s kids will be among the nearly one million Tennessee K-12 students starting some kind of school within weeks.

Commissioner Piercey says three of her four kids will be in a West Tennessee classroom. The other is off to college.

She believes learning online is not a short-term answer for children of many parents.

“Like many, I have the difference in my own children — in-classroom versus virtual learning,” added the commissioner about her own kids. “For them, like most, its not just apples to apples.”

While many parents do not see online learning as a classroom substitute, Dr. Piercey wants a plan as a parent but it comes with a warning in her role as state health commissioner.

“I want there to be in my children’s school, and every school, a systematic methodology of what to do when things happen,” the commissioner said Wednesday. “And let me guarantee you, things will happen. There are going to be infections in the school, whether it’s students or staff or both.”

With that warning of what could be ahead, the doctor and commissioner becomes a parent about how those infections would be handled.

“I also happen to work two hours away as many parents do. They travel and they need predictable scheduling,” said Commissioner Piercey, the parent. “So I want to know what’s coming and a plan for when something happens.”

The commissioner said ultimately, she wants her children’s school and every school across Tennessee, to work with their local health officials who know their kids best.

The commissioner says her West Tennessee school district begins August 3. She jokes her three kids better be there on time.

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