Message from Provost Wente and Vice Chancellor Kopstain to community members with school-aged children

Dear members of the Vanderbilt community,

In the broader Middle Tennessee community, some K-12 school districts are beginning to announce their decisions for their fall semester. On July 9, officials from Metro Nashville Public Schools announced their academic year will begin remotely for all MNPS students on Aug. 4, and Williamson County Schools shared their plans to allow families to choose on-campus or remote instruction for their students for the start of the school year. We will continue to closely monitor for announcements from other area school districts and K-12 schools.

We want you to know that we fully recognize the challenges that this news poses for members of the Vanderbilt community with school-aged children, many of whom already have been balancing work and class schedules with homeschooling and/or child care since early March. These families are a significant part of our community: Our data indicates that more than 1,000 Vanderbilt community members have children under the age of 14, and there are more than 1,800 children in total amongst these families.

We also understand that children thrive when the adults in their lives are able to model calm, compassion and resilience, and we realize achieving this balance can be extraordinarily challenging in the present moment. Your well-being is a top priority, and we are committed to continuing to help you navigate the ever-changing impacts of the pandemic on your daily life.

We further appreciate that each caregiver’s and each child’s personal considerations vary widely. We also each have different requirements with regard to whether our work or classes need to be conducted in person or remotely.

In response to these diverse circumstances and challenges, we have launched several initiatives that provide additional support to the Vanderbilt community during this challenging time.

  • Last month we launched a University Working Group on Schools and Childcare, which is charged with assessing our community’s needs in response to any significant changes in K-12 schools and child care facilities due to COVID-19. The group, which includes faculty, staff, students and postdocs, is examining the child care structures already in place at Vanderbilt while also exploring community resources and additional ways to expand upon these services.
  • We are creating a message board where members of our community can connect and exchange ideas and resources regarding child care solutions and arrangements beyond Vanderbilt’s campus. We will share more information about how to access the message board when it launches next week.
  • We are conducting a survey regarding current child care needs, which will help us identify additional resources that might be helpful. Take the survey now. >>

In addition, please be sure to consider our many existing resources, including family life resources available through the Child and Family Center and the support for remote work and employee engagement recently announced by Human Resources, along with the HR Guide to Supporting Leaders and Staff, which encourages flexibility with staff work schedules. In addition, the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center hosts a monthly Parenting Group, a lunchtime program for the Vanderbilt community that addresses a range of topics. For staff, as always, we encourage you to talk to your supervisor or your HR consultant if you have any questions about your particular situation. For faculty, we encourage you to reach out to your department chair or dean. For students and postdocs, we encourage you to talk with your mentor and dean’s office.

Again, we truly recognize the challenges created by the changes in the Nashville-area K-12 school system schedules along with the broader pandemic, and we are committed to helping our university community find ways to balance the demands on their home and work or studies and thus also thrive as parents and caretakers during this unprecedented time. We will continue to work collaboratively and across our One Vanderbilt community to develop solutions and support wherever possible.

We can and must all work together to demonstrate the care, resilience and commitment to excellence that continues to set our community apart.


Susan R. Wente
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair

Eric Kopstain
Vice Chancellor for Administration