MEMPHIS, Tennessee — In a change of tone from last month, Shelby County Schools announced its dates for in-person instruction for students.
SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said government legislation that could impact school funding and a decline in COVID-19 cases were key factors in the decision to return to classrooms.
“The time has come for us to return stronger in-person to our buildings and classrooms,” said Ray in a briefing Friday afternoon.
It’s been almost one year since students left SCS school buildings after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the district to shift to virtual learning.
Teachers and staff are asked to return on February 22nd. Pre-K through 5th grade on March 1st and 6th-12th grade on March 8th.
“We pleaded with health officials and state leaders for months to prioritize vaccinations for teachers and all SCS employees,” said Ray.
The superintendent said the district is currently working with the Shelby County Health Department to get teachers and employees vaccinated.
“Although there is some pressure to return to reopen our school buildings, we will not compromise our commitment to safety or our core mission to provide high-quality education,” said Dr. Ray.
Last month, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee pushed for a return to classrooms. “He (Ray) has done everything in his power to protect us over the past year,” said Danette Stokes, president of the United Education Association of Shelby County. “Yet he is being forced by leaders in Nashville forcing us to re-enter.”
SCS is now the last school district in the state to return to in-person learning after suspending its return three times.
Plans include a ventilation system and technology that will kill the virus, to have no more than 12 students per class and provide sanitizer and extra masks if needed.
The district said teachers will continue to use Microsoft Teams and that student would keep the same teacher.
But one former SCS parent said she’s now homeschooling for her son.
“I pulled John out he’s no longer in Shelby County Schools because of all of this,” said mother Tammy Walton. “When they were deciding we’re going, we’re not, we’re going we’re not.”
Those who want to continue virtual learning can do so. Parents who want to change their child’s learning option can contact their school.
Certified school-based employees will receive $1,000 and $500 for classified school-based employees.