Gov. Lee Signs Executive Orders Extending State of Emergency, Regulatory Flexibility, Local Authority on Facial Coverings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee today signed Executive Order No. 59 to extend certain, targeted provisions of Executive Order Nos. 36, 38, 49, 50, 54, and 55 through September 30, 2020 to facilitate the continued treatment and containment of COVID-19 through regulatory flexibility, promoting social distancing and wearing face coverings in public places, and protecting vulnerable populations.
Gov. Lee also signed Executive Order Nos. 60 and 61, which extend through September 30 provisions that allow for electronic government meetings subject to transparency safeguards and remote notarization and witnessing of documents, allowing for implementation of best practices developed during COVID-19 for providing live broadcasts of electronic meetings and safely conducting in-person transactions, respectively, beginning October 1.
Executive Order No. 59 extends previous provisions that:
- Urge persons to wear a cloth face covering in places where in close proximity to others, while facilitating local decision-making concerning face covering requirements;
- Urge social distancing and limit social and recreational gatherings of 50 or more persons, unless adequate social distancing can be maintained;
- Limit nursing home and long-term-care facility visitation, while providing a framework for safe, limited visitation, and continue the closure of senior centers;
- Provide that employers and businesses are expected to comply with the Governor’s Economic Recovery Group Guidelines (e.g., Tennessee Pledge) for operating safely (the 6 counties with locally run county health departments have authority to issue different directives on businesses/venues);
- Provide that bars may only serve customers seated at appropriately spaced tables and must follow the Economic Recovery Group Guidelines (e.g., Tennessee Pledge) for restaurants (the 6 counties with locally run county health departments have authority to issue different directives on businesses/venues);
- Continue access take-out alcohol sales to encourage carryout and delivery orders;
- Allow broad access to telehealth services;
- Increase opportunities for people to easily join the healthcare workforce;
- Facilitate increased testing and health care capacity;
- Extend deadlines and suspend certain in-person continuing education, gathering, or inspection requirements to avoid unnecessary person-to-person contact; and
- Increase opportunities to work remotely where appropriate.
Executive Order No. 60, as previously extended by Executive Order No. 51, is extended through September 30 and allows governing bodies to meet electronically regarding essential business as long as they provide electronic access to the public and meet the safeguards established in that order to ensure openness and transparency. The order ensures that governmental entities are able to carry out essential business in a safe, transparent way without creating large gatherings in a confined space and endangering persons, particularly those at increased risk of suffering severe illness from COVID-19, while requiring that governing bodies transition toward adopting best practices developed during the pandemic, like providing real-time, live public access to electronic meetings, beginning October 1.
Executive Order No. 61, as previously extended by Executive Order No. 52, is extended through September 30, and allows for remote notarization and remote witnessing of documents, subject to compliance with certain procedures. The order ensures that persons, and particularly populations especially vulnerable to COVID-19, including older adults and persons with compromised immune systems or serious chronic medical conditions, can continue to engage in commerce and execute legal documents without requiring in-person contact while also making preparations to implement best practices for a safe return to in-person transactions beginning October 1.
The full executive orders can be viewed here.
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Sewanee Elementary School Principal Allison Dietz summed up her philosophy of instructional leadership in five words: “I’m in it with them. I want to be an extra person for the teachers so I can help them.”
Viewed in the traditional sense, for Dietz this means “knowing and understanding the curriculum being taught in the classroom and being familiar with the state standards and expectations we’re supposed to have the students master.” But the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust teaching and the education experience into uncharted territory.
“There are so many things no one ever thought of,” Dietz said. The biggest challenge facing SES in the immediate present is “training students on the procedures of the new normal.”
Ticking off particulars, Dietz mentioned cafeteria protocol and classroom distancing. Visuals posted throughout the school help students understand social distancing and the new ways of doing things. Dietz remarked on the special challenge distancing posed for SES teachers who often take a “collaborative approach to instruction.”
“SES teachers do a great job at building relationships with students,” Dietz said. “This year we’re taking extra measures to help students feel safe and comfortable.” At SES, everyone is required to wear a mask. “We have not had one problem,” Dietz said. If wearing a mask becomes stressful for a student, provisions are made for them to be in a “safe space” where they can take a “mask break.”
Distance learning students participate via Google Classroom, where they receive and submit assignments and can watch the lesson being taught by video. A “safe board” allows students to respond, communicate, and post questions.
Asked about measures to keep distance learning students socially engaged, Dietz said University students were hosting weekly Campfire Meetings via Zoom where the distance learning students could interact and share experiences.
What if COVID-19 cases spike and all education goes virtual? “Teachers are training the in-classroom students on the same program the distance learning students use,” Dietz said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”
Although Dietz came on board as SES principal just this fall, she previously served as an instructional coach at the school and as interim principal for six weeks when then Principal Kim Tucker was on leave. Tucker has rotated into the role of county-wide virtual learning coordinator.
Born and raised in Franklin County, Dietz’s first grade teacher at Decherd Elementary fostered fond memories that inspired Dietz to pursue a career as an educator. After receiving her degree in education from Middle Tennessee State University, Dietz taught first grade at Decherd for eight years.
“First grade is where my heart was,” Dietz said. “I love the big reward at the end of the year. They come in not reading and leave reading.”
Dietz and her husband own a business, and Dietz’s role in that enterprise was hiring and training staff. That combined with her four years as an instructional coach in the Franklin County Schools opened her eyes to a new career path. “I realized how much I enjoyed working with adults on an instructional level.” Dietz went on to earn a master’s degree in educational administration from MTSU. She has served as assistant principal at Clark Memorial, Decherd, and South Middle School.
SES plans for traditional fall events have been pushed ahead a few months. “We need to see how the flow goes,” Dietz said. Walk To School Day is tentatively scheduled for later in the semester. A weekly event at SES is the Friday assembly. “The children love the Friday assembly,” Dietz said. “We’ve gone virtual with that.”
Dietz cherishes being immersed in the school and learning experience. “I love being involved. I’ve been in many schools. It’s not often you get the backing of the community and the parent support this community provides. The community of Sewanee as a whole makes this elementary school even more special.”
Daniel Carter, assistant professor of environmental studies and academic civic engagement leader, has been awarded a 2020 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award. The awards are presented by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to recognize exemplary public service.
Carter was nominated for his civic initiatives in Marion County and his work with Sewanee students on those initiatives.
As a local farmer and expert in land-use policy, Carter serves as a liaison representing farming viewpoints to the conservation community, and translates scientific and policy issues to fellow farmers. His most recent service includes as a founding board member of the Thrive Regional Partnership (2016-present); Natural Treasures Alliance of the Thrive Partnership, chair (2014- present); and Tennessee River Gorge Trust, president of the board (2010-12).
Carter has, moreover, involved himself in two different community-building projects in Marion County: place-making education in the schools as well as the creation of support programming for at-risk youth. In an education course at the University, Curriculum Design for Place-Based Education, Carter’s students work with faculty and local experts on the history and geology of Marion County. Their work provides Marion County High School teachers with modules that enhance student learning about the geology, environmental history, and issues facing Marion County, including geology/physical history, and coal and railroads.
In his second project, Carter has worked closely with government and community leaders in Marion County to bring an early intervention and prevention program for youth ages 10-15 who have been referred to the program either through the juvenile court system or the school system.
“Daniel embodies what is best about the integration of academic expertise with dedicated service to local communities,” said Vice-Chancellor Emeritus John McCardell. “Because of his passionate but thoughtful work with local and regional leaders, I can think of no one more worthy of receiving the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award than Daniel Carter.”
“I received this award because Sewanee students enthusiastically embraced class projects that were meaningful to the communities beyond Sewanee,” Carter said. “I see this as a collective award, demonstrating Sewanee’s commitment to civic engagement. I have enjoyed watching Sewanee students move on to careers that are centered on the public good. A friend of mine, who is a conservation leader in the region, recently hired two Sewanee grads and he said to me: ‘There is truly something special about Sewanee students.’ And this is why I love to work here.”
St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School welcomes several new faculty and staff members, including four alumni of the school, as we begin our 2020-21 school year.
Haley Chelsvig is teaching biology and chemistry, and is a member of the residential faculty and coacheds volleyball and boys’ middle school soccer. She graduated summa cum laude from Drake University with a degree in biology and psychology and, as an undergraduate, conducted research on species diversity and animal behavior.
A career education administrator, Ashley Close holds a B.S. in Marketing of Higher Education and an M.S. in Education from Elmira College and a Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA. She is the new Assistant Director of Admission at SAS.
Jennifer Dillon, ’82, a seasoned accounting and operations executive with a passion for small business and educational not-for-profit organizations, joined SAS this summer as Chief Financial and Operations Officer.
Lisa Garner comes to SAS from Holy Trinity High School in Chicago where she was Director of Counseling. Garner holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and DPsych degree from Illinois School of Professional Psychology (Argosy University). She is a certified School Counselor. In addition to serving as Mental Health Counselor, Garner will be a lead house parent in Watts House.
Taylor Lee joins SAS as a Spanish teacher and International Student Coordinator. He is a 2018 graduate of Washington & Lee University where he earned a B.A. in Global Politics with a minor in Latin American & Caribbean Studies. Lee, who is a member of the residential faculty, will also be the assistant varsity boys’ soccer coach.
Brian Mazur joins SAS as an experienced mathematics teacher having taught at Franklin County High School, Lakeview Centennial High School (Texas), Dallas CAN! Academy, and Horizon Science Academy. He is a graduate of Oberlin College where he earned a degree in Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA). He will teach algebra and Math 7.
Jazz Render, ’14, returns to SAS as an Admission Counselor. She is a graduate of the University of West Georgia University with a major in Mass Communications and a concentration in Digital Media and Telecommunications.
Paul Schutz joined SAS as IT Support Coordinator earlier this summer. He most recently served as the director of marketing for the continuing education unit of the School of Theology at the University of the South where he worked extensively with distance learning systems, configured systems for online event registration and payments; and provided extensive logistical and technical support for large events, including A/V configuration, recording, videography, and equipment troubleshooting. He holds a B.F.A. in Photography from New York University and has completed significant coursework towards a Masters in Theology from Sewanee.
Thomas Simerville, ’16, and a recent graduate in history from the University of the South, joins the school as a Father Flye Fellow with special skills and responsibilities in outdoor education. Simerville, a residential faculty member, will teach History, Art, Adventure Education, and Humanities; will help to lead Outdoor Adventure programs in Wilderness Basics, Mountain Biking, Climbing, and Adventure Cycling.
Margaret Wilson, ’16, who has been serving as the interim farmer at the SAS Farm, joins the school fulltime as farm educator and art teacher. A 2020 graduate of Warren Wilson College, Wilson majored in Psychology and minored in Art (Ceramics) and Expressive Arts Therapy. Wilson, a member of the residential faculty, will teach functional pottery and Middle School art, and manage the school’s farm and farming afternoon program.
Shomari Todd, a senior at the University of the South, will be joining the college counseling office this year as an intern. Shomari, who is studying psychology and education, is originally from Fort Washington, Md., and hopes to return to Maryland to be a school counselor. Shomari’s goals are to make students’ experiences in school truly unforgettable while putting them on the right track for life beyond high school. He is involved with Bacchus and the Wick at Sewanee, helping to care for students and create community.
Other summer transitions include Interim Dean of Students Geoffrey Smith moving into the more permanent role of Dean of Students, school nurse Melissa Gilliam assuming the title of Director of Health Clinic, history teacher and residential faculty member Chris Monahan taking on additional responsibilities as Residential Life Coordinator, Director of College Counseling Dan Monahan continuing in his role as COVID Coordinator, and School Store Manager Jana Barnett moving into the position of Academic Administrative Assistant. Auxiliary Program Director Lizzie Duncan, ’76, will also take on the responsibility for the school store.
What Are The Rules For Wearing Masks On Campus?
All Sewanee residents and visitors are required to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in public or inside buildings other than private residences, with five exceptions:
When they are alone,
When they are asleep (such as in a residence hall room or hotel room),
When they are eating or drinking,
When they are maintaining a social distance of six feet or more from any other person, and
If they have a documented medical condition that precludes their wearing a face covering.
Certain events or facilities may have additional masking rules. You should always have a mask with you—and when in doubt, wear your mask. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks, PPE, medical face masks or respirators. Currently, those are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders.
The University has set up a website with information on Sewanee’s COVID-19 handling–including interim policies, campus updates, and plans for the current academic semester at https://new.sewanee.edu/2019-novel-coronavirus-cov...
Tennessee State Parks officials and legislators cut the ribbon Aug. 21, to open a new Fall Creek Falls State Park Visitors Center, a $2.7 million, 4,800-sq.-ft. facility made possible by an investment by the Tennessee General Assembly.
“This is a special day for Fall Creek Falls and our parks system,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said. “This facility enhances Fall Creek Falls as one of our most prestigious state parks, and we look forward to its role in bolstering the park and the community.”
The new visitors center will have 24-hour accessible restrooms, a gift shop, a rentable conference room and a covered patio with a gas fire pit. All overnight cabin and camper guests will check in at the center.
A new, 85-room Lodge at Fall Creek Falls, with modern room design, conference space and a full-service restaurant and lounge, is expected to open in 2021.
Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s largest and most visited state parks. The park encompasses more than 29,800 acres on the Cumberland Plateau. At 256 feet, Fall Creek Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States. Other waterfalls within the park include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades. The park is in Bledsoe and Van Buren counties, 11 miles east of Spencer.
The park features 30 cabins and 222 campsites, as well as backcountry camping. More than 56 miles of trails can be explored. The Nature Center at Fall Creek Falls offers hands-on environmental education through a variety of naturalist-led programs. The park also features the Fall Creek Falls Golf Course and pro shop. It also features the adventurous Canopy Challenge Course including wobbly bridges, rope swings, and zip lines. The park has four playgrounds and five covered picnic pavilions.
Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group today announced $61 million will be awarded in Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund grants to improve access to broadband internet across the state. The grants are funded through the State’s Coronavirus Relief Fund allotment from the federal government and distributed through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only further elevated the importance of access to reliable, affordable broadband internet to facilitate telemedicine, distance learning, and telecommuting,” said Gov. Lee. “I thank the members of our Financial Stimulus Accountability Group and the Department of Economic and Community Development for their work in distributing these funds to shovel-ready projects that will directly benefit Tennesseans.”
“The emergence of COVID-19 greatly accelerated the need for widespread access to broadband. As all of us adjust to the new normal of social distance, technology becomes even more critical to study, work and socialize,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. “These dollars will allow for implementation of greatly needed projects crucial to bringing us together virtually as we strive to stay apart physically.”
“This $61 million investment in additional broadband grants, in conjunction with the $60 million the General Assembly has already appropriated, will continue to increase access to high speed internet services across Tennessee. Our families, schools, businesses, and health care communities will benefit from this enhanced broadband infrastructure,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “I appreciate Gov. Lee, Lt. Gov. McNally, our Accountability Group members and the General Assembly for their ongoing efforts to help strengthen Tennessee’s infrastructure; we will continue working together to identify and create solutions that address both our immediate and our emerging, long-term needs.”
ECD received 84 applications for $89.1 million in funding. Following review and a public comment period, 62 projects representing $61.1 million will be funded. The remaining $28 million in projects were denied due to a number of factors including project feasibility, applicant experience, and public comments received from existing broadband providers. Unfunded applicants will be invited to submit an application for the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Program, funded at $15 million this year, where applicants are given significantly more time to complete project builds.
Pursuant to federal guidelines, these projects are limited to those that would enhance access to individuals and families affected during the COVID-19 pandemic by the lack of broadband access in their area. Eligible entities included those authorized to provide broadband services in Tennessee, and eligible areas were limited to those unserved or underserved locations lacking all equipment necessary to provide a broadband connection capable of supporting telemedicine, distance learning, and telecommuting.
More information on the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund can be found here.
Secretary Hargett Looks to Build Upon Poll Official Recruitment Success by Partnering with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for National Poll Official Recruitment Day
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Secretary of State Tre Hargett announces the department’s successful statewide campaign to recruit poll officials will continue for the November election. As part of the campaign, the Secretary of State’s office is partnering with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to acknowledge Sept. 1 as National Poll Worker Recruitment Day.
“Thousands of Tennesseans answered the call to serve as poll officials for the August election, especially students and young adults,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “I encourage Tennesseans to sign up today to help fellow Tennesseans vote on Election Day in November.”
Established by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, National Poll Worker Recruitment Day aims to raise awareness about the benefits and importance of poll officials and inspire more Americans to apply.
State and county election officials in Tennessee successfully recruited poll officials for August and are already working to do so for the roughly 17,000 workers needed in November.
“Our recruitment efforts helped ensure a successful Election Day in August,” said Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. “Election officials are planning for a safe and secure election in November, but it is not possible without thousands of dedicated poll officials.”
The minimum age to work as a poll official in Tennessee is 16 years old. Most Tennessee citizens are eligible to work as a poll official including county or municipal government employees if they don’t work directly under the supervision of an elected official who is on the ballot.Federal employees can also serve as poll officials.
Poll officials will be supplied with gowns, face shields, gloves and other PPE. All poll officials will be required to wear a face covering and will be trained in social distancing protocols. Additionally, officials are paid for the training time as well as their hours worked during the election period.
For more information and to apply to become a poll official, visit https://pollworkers.govotetn.com/
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Aug. 18 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District (SUD) Board of Commissioners voted to sign a contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) requiring SUD to assume financial liability for relocation of water and sewer lines in conjunction with narrowing Highway 41A. SUD hopes to receive financial assistance from the University to mitigate the estimated $315,225 cost to SUD and SUD customers.
TDOT’s decision to narrow the highway evolved in conjunction with the University pursuing its Sewanee Village Plan for the downtown area. Because narrowing the road is a TDOT project, impacted utilities are financially liable for the needed infrastructure changes, SUD manager Ben Beavers advised the board at the May meeting.
In hopes of receiving assistance in paying for relocating water and sewer lines, Beavers and SUD President Charlie Smith held a virtual conference recently with Frank Gladu who heads up the Sewanee Village initiative, and University Vice President for Finance Doug Williams.
“The University is willing to discuss a partnership,” Beavers said. “They will probably help us out with the cost, but the details are nebulous.”
Smith concurred. “I feel like there’s a good faith effort on the part of the University to work out some kind of a plan to mitigate the cost to SUD.”
The board also revisited the topic of Long-Term Financial Planning. At the July meeting, the board agreed to enter into an arrangement with the nonprofit Communities Unlimited to perform a three-part study for SUD. Beavers said the board was also considering seeking planning advice from an area accounting firm.
The at-large seat held by Smith will come open for election in January. Prospective candidates should contact Beavers at the SUD office. Commissioners need to be SUD customers. The board must select three nominees. Smith will seek reelection to a second four-year term.
Smith updated the board on the effort to amend language in the charter that established the utility which limits commissioners to two consecutive terms. The board wants the language changed to allow for unlimited consecutive terms. Amending the charter requires a legislative act. At Smith’s behest, the office of Representative Iris Rudder agreed to introduce the request in the Tennessee legislature. Smith is seeking clarification on the status of the amendment request.
The board meets next on Sept. 15.
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Aug. 18 Monteagle Planning Commission meeting, two issues intersected, the requested approval for the Petro Travel Center at I-24 Exit 135, and inaccuracies on the zoning map approved by the Monteagle City Council in 2019.
In July, Rodney Kilgore presented a site plan for the Petro construction, which failed to meet a number of requirements. The detailed site plan presented at the Aug. 4 meeting addressed most of the issues, but the Planning Commission requested a screening fence as required by Monteagle City ordinance.
The Planning Commission expected to receive a revised site plan at the Aug. 18 meeting. The Commission asked for an 8 foot tall block and brick fence along the entire rear portion of the parking lot. No revised site plan was presented.
Representing Kilgore and co-franchisees Tammy and Brian Graber, attorney Rusty Leonard argued the height and materials requirements were “in excess” of the zoning ordinance requirements and the $500,000 cost was prohibitive and could “break the bank” on an $18 million dollar project. Leonard proposed a wooden fence be erected.
Planning Commission Chair David Oliver countered, based on his research, the fence the commission requested would cost $100,000 and the block and brick construction was needed to buffer sound. “We’re trying to offer protection to the neighboring residents,” Oliver insisted.
Leonard said if the commission failed to approve the proposal for a wood fence, the franchisees had “no choice but to build a wall or file a law suit.” Leonard stressed the travel center not being built could cost Monteagle jobs and tax dollars.
Attorney Bob Huskey, representing residents owning property adjacent to the Petro Center, suggested the commission require a bond sufficient to cover the erection of a block and brick screening fence should the franchisees fail to adhere to the site plan once approved.
A Monteagle resident presented three estimates for sound-barrier screening fences ranging in cost from $136,000 to $355,000.
“We want a sound barrier and protection for the people and we won’t approve a plan until we have that,” Oliver insisted. “At the last meeting, we asked the developer for a site drawing that showed a wall. We don’t have that. There’s nothing to approve.”
Kilgore proposed an alternative to the screening fence requested. Leonard suggest hand writing in the alternative fencing on the plan in the commission’s possession.
“That’s not appropriate,” Oliver said.
The commission voted to deny approval of the site plan. The Petro franchisees can present a revised plan at the next meeting scheduled for Sept. 1.
In the discussion about the erroneous zoning map, former planning commission member Ron Terrill pointed out the Southeast Tennessee Development District inadvertently introduced the errors into the map when the governmental agency created a color-coded map in 2018.
The errors included properties adjacent to and within the proposed Petro tract, which were rezoned from residential to commercial.
A resident argued the Petro project should not even be discussed until the zoning issues were corrected.
Oliver read from a city ordinance requiring public notice of rezoning in a local newspaper and by mail notice to affected residents.
Huskey presented affidavits from 12 residents who had received no notification of the rezoning.
Oliver said the planning commission needed to investigate whether the required public notice and by mail notice occurred. The planning commission will ask the Monteagle City Council to revisit the 2019 zoning changes at the Monday, Aug. 31 meeting.
Oliver stressed most of the proposed Petro property was zoned C-3 and the developers “have the right to build.” Only seven acres of the Petro tract would be affected if the 2019 zoning changes to commercial zoning reverted back to residential.
Due to the volume of virtual learners and the added cleaning burden due to COVID-19, each Friday will be designated a virtual/distance learning day for all students. All teachers and staff members will report to work and students will remain at home to complete classwork. In-person students must receive assignments in all subjects to constitute 7 hour instructional day from all teachers on Thursday for students to complete on Friday. This will include specialty teachers. This plan would begin on Aug. 28 and continue through Oct. 2. Delaying until that date will allow parents to make child care arrangements. This is being suggested to provide all teachers with time to do the following:
Professional Development to learn to use additional programs and tools for virtual learning
Planning and submitting in Google Classroom for the following week
Create effective virtual assignments utilizing Google Classroom
Meet weekly with virtual students via Zoom or Google Meets
Monitor work completed by all students in Google Classroom and report those who have not completed work to keep track for attendance purposes
All teachers will be responsible for completing these tasks. There should be no interruption in the work day. Teachers should take their normal 30-minute lunch break. All extracurricular activities will proceed at normal times.
Support staff will be reporting to work and will be given an assignment by the principal of the school. Classrooms can also be deep cleaned on Fridays.
For more information go to www.fcstn.net
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Secretary of State Tre Hargett is encouraging voters to prepare now to vote in the presidential election on Nov. 3. Tennesseans should make sure their voter registration is up-to-date and make decisions about whether they will vote in-person or absentee by-mail if eligible.
“We want every eligible Tennessean to be ready to vote in the November election,” said Secretary Hargett. “Whether voting in-person or by-mail we want your vote to count.”
Tennessee’s generous early voting period starts Oct. 14 and lasts until Oct. 29.
Voters who choose to vote in-person during early voting or on Election Day will see the same precautions used during the August election. Voters should expect to see signs with further safety instructions at their polling locations. Poll officials will be supplied with gowns, face shields, gloves and other PPE. All poll officials will be wearing face coverings and are trained in social distancing protocols. Voters will experience precautions taken such as single-use pens, disposable stylus to select their candidate and sanitizer at the polling location.
For voters, voting absentee by-mail county election commissions will start mailing out ballots in September. Election officials are currently taking steps to finalize the November ballot, including certifying August election results as well as waiting on both major parties to officially confirm their presidential nominees.
In Tennessee, voters must have a legal reason listed in the law to be eligible to vote absentee by-mail. Some of the most common legal reasons are voters who are 60 or older and voters who will be out of their counties during the election.
Eligible voters who have a special vulnerability to COVID-19 due to an underlying illness, physical disability, or other health condition and who cannot appear at the polling place on Election Day due to this condition may vote by absentee ballot under the “illness or physical disability” reason. Likewise, eligible voters who are caretakers to individuals with a special vulnerability may vote by absentee ballot under the “caretaker” reason.
Voters should consult trusted guidance from medical experts and use common sense in determining whether they have a special vulnerability. The CDC provides a website with helpful information that voters may wish to consult.
“If you make your request now to vote absentee by-mail, counties will be prepared to send you the ballot as soon as it is available,” said Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. “Once you receive your ballot, vote it and mail it back in as soon as possible so it is ready to be counted on Election Day.”
Absentee by-mail ballots must be returned by-mail. This includes the U.S. Postal Service and services like FedEx and UPS. Each state is different when it comes to election law. Tennessee law does not permit voters to turn in their ballots in-person or for the use of drop boxes.
For the latest information on the Nov. 3 election, follow our social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate.
For more information on the voting process, go to www.GoVoteTN.com or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.
TDOT, TDEC and KTnB Partner to Spread Awareness
In response to the current pandemic, the Tennessee Department of Transportation is announcing a new partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation and Keep Tennessee Beautiful to reduce PPE litter and promote behaviors for the proper disposal of masks/PPE. The partnership will feature a series of social media posts highlighting proper PPE disposal and TDOT’s “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” litter prevention campaign. Posts and additional messaging will be shared electronically by all three entities and made available through KTnB and their statewide network of affiliates.
“This partnership is a response to a rise in PPE litter which TDOT has begun to notice on rights-of-way, and how we, as state agencies, can work together to share one impactful message,” TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright said.
All social media posts will have common messaging including:
• Single use masks, gloves, and wipes should not be placed into any recycling containers or disposed of on the ground. Improper disposal creates health and environmental hazards.
• All PPE should be properly disposed of in a trash receptacle.
• Wearing a reusable or cloth mask instead of single-use masks can reduce the amount of PPE waste going to landfills and help fight the spread of COVID-19.
“In these unusual times, unusual problems arise, and the litter of personal protective equipment is an example,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “We encourage all Tennesseans to be mindful of this issue and maintain their commitment to the beauty of our state. We are grateful to TDOT and Keep Tennessee Beautiful for their partnership in this effort.”
TDOT is doing its part to meet these challenges by spending $15 million annually on litter pickup and prevention education and has decreased the amount of roadside litter by 43% since 2006. Still, at any given time, nearly 100 million pieces of litter occur on Tennessee roadsides. For more information on this and TDOT’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee litter prevention campaign, visit: https://nobodytrashestennessee.com/.
Keep Tennessee Beautiful is an adjunct service of the University of Memphis and provides expertise in litter prevention education, litter law enforcement, community beautification, and volunteer recruitment and management. This expertise is delivered across the State of Tennessee through a network of 33 local affiliates. Information about Keep Tennessee Beautiful can be found at https://www.keeptnbeautiful.org/.
The Division of Solid Waste Management within TDEC oversees various solid waste and recycling programs. For more information on the proper disposal of COVID 19 PPE, please go to the following link: https://www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/sw-solid-waste.html.
This survey is to determine the level of interest in reopening ESP on September 8, 2020. ESP would like to make plans to reopen at the ESP sites that indicate registration and enrollment of the daily minimum required 12 children. The information gathered from this survey should provide the number of children that would be enrolling at each of the ESP sites and allow us to make the decision about which sites can reopen. If you are interested in registering for ESP this fall, please complete the survey using the link below:
Child Wellbeing Task Force Guidance to Ensure Children’s Needs Are Met; TDOE Provides Funding for Districts to Support This Work
NASHVILLE, TN— The Tennessee Department of Education released a toolkit on child wellbeing checks to help ensure the needs of children are being met during and after extended periods away from school and to empower local communities to support child wellbeing.
To support this work, the department is setting aside $1 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to provide regional support for districts in implementing safe and healthy practices in schools. Details of how districts may apply will be shared with directors of schools in the coming days. In addition, a CDC grant will fund eight regional staff to support this work across the state.
“Since we know many children have experienced adversity due to the pandemic, child wellbeing checks are a deliberate way all stakeholders in the community can help ensure the needs of our children are met,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “I am encouraged by the hard work and dedication of the Task Force and our districts to support kids and their holistic needs.”
In response to the pandemic’s long-term effects on Tennessee’s school districts and students, Governor Bill Lee charged Commissioner Schwinn to convene the COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force. The goal of the taskforce is to help communities come together to check on our kids and support the holistic needs of Tennessee children.
To verify the wellbeing and identify needs of all Tennessee children, the Task Force will be coordinating efforts with a district designee who can identify local community entities to partner in this work. Each district’s designee, as well as regional staff hired for this work, would participate in monthly child wellbeing calls and report on the completion of child wellbeing checks for students zoned within the local community.
"Schools are working valiantly to provide supports and meet the needs of students, but they cannot be expected to do so by themselves,” said Samantha Wigand, CEO of Communities in Schools- Tennessee, and member of Child Wellbeing Task Force. “Youth serving organizations, such as CIS-TN, CIS-M, and many others are poised to amplify the work of the Task Force and partner with schools in support of students and families to help coordinate these wellbeing checks and help meet the needs of all Tennessee students.”
The wellbeing checks toolkit contains additional information and explanation on how child wellbeing checks are defined, how district designees can be selected, the wellbeing check process, the implementation process and models, templates, and a resource list.
Guidelines established in this toolkit are encouraged to be enacted during any period of extended school closure, through virtual school models, and when students return to school after extended periods away.
The COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force recently released the Initial COVID-19 Impact Report, which can be found here, along with a companion summary here, which highlight how the pandemic has impacted children and families.
For access to additional resources related to reopening schools, visit the Tennessee Department of Education’s Reopening webpage: https://www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/update-on-coronavirus/reopening-guidance.html.