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How teachers, administrators, and parents are keeping students on track amid the Omicron COVID surge

A record high number of active cases - including with children - in Shelby County is causing absences during the first week back after holiday break.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This week, as students and staff returned from holiday break, the COVID Omicron variant is also impacting the classroom, with record highs this week of active cases overall, including kids.

At districts across the Mid-South, teachers and administrators are in the same boat, navigating through the latest hurdle of absences and interruption challenges.

Despite that, parents and students are taking things in stride, as they've done since March 2020.

"I think most of the teachers are just trying to persevere," Memphis-Shelby County Education Association President Dr. Anntriniece Napper said. "Some teachers have told me that several of their colleagues have been absent this week, so when colleagues and your teachers are out, then other teachers have to cover your class."

A Shelby County Schools spokesperson said Friday: "Since start of this year, teams developed plans of how they support classrooms where teachers are absent, with qualified individuals to ensure no disruption to in-person learning, which include licensed central office employees, certified subs or degreed subs."

"We are trying to stay positive and hope that, you know, that our numbers will go down," Dr. Napper added.

To offset any instruction impacted by COVID, area teachers said they're working extra hours to keep kids on track.

Memphis based Porter-Leath is also assisting, announcing this week the expansion of 12 childhood centers that will specialize in Pre-K children who've also missed out during the pandemic.

"How do they deal with day to day challenges? How do they remember, that, you know, how they act in social norms, in classrooms? How do they engage with teachers?" Porter-Leath Program Coordinator Candace Tate said.

Friday afternoon, SCS parents said their children are still achieving as normal, despite this latest obstacle in the nearly two-year adjustment of learning. 

"The precaution starts at home, as long as your children know they should wear their masks or keep their distance," Akesha Dixon said, a SCS middle school parent.

"Some kids, way better than adults, they take stuff better than we can, and I think that's pretty good. Maybe we need to follow in their footsteps," Shondra Jackson added.