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Shelby County Schools creates task force to address back-to-school plan

Move comes as coronavirus pandemic has impacted all aspects of everyday life

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

Shelby County Schools is working to decide what learning will look like in the fall for students. Tennessee’s largest school district has created a task force looking into how to keep students safe whether learning from home or in the classroom.

SCS debuted S.A.F.E, that's Strategic Action for Flexible Education. Specifics are still in the works about whether all students will be back in their classroom seats or just some.

“Coronavirus will not defeat us," said SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray on Friday.

Ray addressed learning after COVID-19 rolling out a new contingency plan for the 2020-2021 school year that might reopen school doors.

“It is likely that a hybrid model of in person or distance learning will be necessary,” said Ray.

Dr. Ray announced options for schools come fall. A complete or near complete return to school buildings, use of staggered schedules or total or near total online learning in an effort to limit unsafe crowds.

“This plan is a development of best practices to reopen schools during the rapidly developing nature of this crisis which is a historic undertaking,” said the superintendent.

A re-entry task force made up of health and education officials plus students and a parent will address five points. Social distancing, transportation, lost instruction, social emotional learning support and communicating plans to all stakeholders. Last week the Tennessee Department of Education commissioner stressed the need for an adjustment period for students.

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“Our kids would have been out of schools for 6 months," commented Commissioner Penny Schwinn in a virtual town hall meeting. "So re-entry just can’t be we go straight back to math and reading day one. There’s going to have to be a reorientation process.”

The team is exploring a bold plan to bridge the digital divide that would provide a new digital device and internet access to every student and teacher. SCS will hold weekly updates to the plan and conduct three upcoming community sessions where parents can attend.

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