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WATCH: Shelby County Schools discusses reopening for in-person learning

Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said at the end of January there was no target date for a return.
Credit: WATN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — UPDATE 2/4/2021 - Shelby County Schools leaders are expected to discuss a re-entry plan for in-person learning during a meeting Thursday afternoon.

Watch HERE.


1/29/2021 - Shelby County Schools is delaying the return to in-person classes again.

The following is the statement sent out by Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray: 

"I want to make you aware of a difficult decision we’ve had to make regarding in-person learning. Our plans to gradually reopening schools on February 8 will be delayed.

We expect the number one question people will have when hearing of the delay is: When will we open buildings and offer an in-person learning option for students and parents? Right now, we are unable to provide a new target date for returning to buildings as we base our local decisions on the health and safety of all students and educators.

There are multiple factors and I and our dedicated Board are weighing all of them. From the discussions about vaccinations to the guidance from the CDC, schools are safe to open, but only if we all work together to reduce the infection rate in our community. In addition, there are signs that lawmakers in Nashville may revoke their commitment to allow local control and force districts to send children and teachers back in person. The context of our decision to return in-person is the most challenging decision any of us has ever faced.

Earlier this week, I called Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and I told him about our long-standing S.A.F.E. plans to return to school buildings. We’ve invested COVID-19 relief dollars and our schools are ready to welcome students. We all want to return to normal and we appreciate your patience as we weigh these critical decisions.

Just this week, the number of diagnosed coronavirus cases in Shelby County doubled in the course of one 24 hour period. And in two days this week, 39 of our neighbors died from COVID.

However, there are reasons for hope. Vaccinations are rolling out across the country and I asked Governor Lee to pledge his support for prioritizing educators in the vaccination lines. While the Governor would not commit to helping us, we are working diligently with the Shelby County Health Department to train our nurses and host District sites to offer vaccinations to our educators.

Knowing what we know about the spread of the virus in this county and across Tennessee, even the Health Department has acknowledged: Shelby County Schools has played an essential role in helping our community save lives and reduce the spread of the virus. We’ve come too far by faith to turn our backs on SAFETY now." 


12/11/2020 Shelby County Schools (SCS) is delaying the return to in-person learning due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Shelby County. The District had planned to reopen schools on January 4; however, the phased reopening will be delayed. Schools will reopen no earlier than the second semester, February 8 (Pre-K-5) and February 22 (6-12) 

As we have seen throughout the pandemic, these are uncertain times and we must be flexible around our reopening proposal. High-quality instruction, resources, and meal services will continue to be available to support students and families while schools remain all virtual.

“We recognize the pandemic presents a growing set of challenges for all our principals, teachers, support staff, families and students,” said Dr. Joris M. Ray. “During times like this, our FAITH can be tested, and it can be hard to imagine brighter days. But, I know we can get through this as we work TOGETHER on behalf of our children.”

According to health department data, the seven-day average has exceeded 450 new cases per day over the past two weeks. The total number of COVID-19 cases in Shelby County stands at more than 53,000.

The proposed reopening on January 4 was contingent upon the current status of the coronavirus in our community. Unfortunately, the holiday season is showing an upward trend in cases in Memphis/Shelby County. After much consideration, the School Board and Superintendent agree that a delay to the proposed gradual reopening of schools is best for the District at this time.

“We know that our families were looking forward to our schools reopening and we understand the importance of returning to the classroom,” said School Board Chair Miska Clay Bibbs. “We hope our community recognizes that this decision has been made in the best interest of health and safety for our students and employees.”

The District will host a virtual town hall to provide more information for families prior to the reopening. Schools will also be hosting individual virtual open houses to share their reopening plans with families.

Click here to view Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray’s full video transcript.

For additional facts about our reopening plan, click here.