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School to return to normal for 2021-22
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Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn gets a butterfly to perch on her finger while Kinley Clemmons holds the cage during a visit to Hickory Creek Elementary on Monday.

It will be back to normal with full classroom learning when the 2021-22 school year gets under way in August.

That’s according to Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, who made her first visit to a Warren County school on Monday when she stopped at Hickory Creek Elementary.

“We’ll be back to in-person learning five days a week,” said Schwinn, who is in the midst of a tour where she’ll visit 50 schools in three weeks. “I think we’re up to the challenge.”

Education was touched as much as anything by the pandemic. Warren County students started last year only going to school two days a week before increasing to a four-day-a-week schedule.

When asked about her most frequent question when she travels from school to school, Schwinn said, “We have received a lot of federal funding and people want to be sure this money is being used in the best way possible in the best interests of Tennessee students.”

Schwinn was quick to engage with students and she shared a smile with several youngsters while examining a butterfly exhibit. 

Schwinn reached inside the container and got a butterfly to perch on her finger. This delighted the children.

Asked about learning loss due to the decreased classroom time last year, Schwinn said information is still being compiled on that front.

“We’re starting to see some of that data come in from out West and from Texas and the biggest drop has been in math,” said Schwinn. “We’ll have to wait and see what that means for Tennessee.”

After her current 50-school tour is complete, Schwinn says she will have visited 145 of the state’s 147 school districts. That includes trips to 1,000 classrooms. The travel has been beneficial.

“I’ve never been to a school district where I didn’t hear something from a different voice and a new perspective,” said Schwinn. “Education is different in every single community of the state.”

Director of Schools Grant Swallows welcomed Schwinn as she stepped off the bus at Hickory Creek. Also on hand to welcome the commissioner were school principal Rachel Graves and school system director of continuous improvement Mike Mansfield.

Said Swallows, “It’s nice when the people in charge of our education system seek feedback from the ones who are here on the front lines educating our children. It’s very much appreciated.”