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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

"There is no good answer to this" | Health experts offer suggested protocols for Mid-South school districts

School administrators across Shelby County have been planning in-person, virtual learning or combination.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "From my standpoint, there is no good answer to this," Dr. Jon McCullers with UT Health Science Center said.

Medical experts admit there are both pros and cons - and no clear road map - as area school districts plan to start the school year with either in-person learning, virtual learning, or a mixture of both.

"We know that there are health issues associated with the decision to open schools and for parents to send children back to school. At the same time, we recognize that having kids in school doing face-to-face learning is the best ways for kids to learn," Dr. McCullers said.

To help local school administrators, a Le Bonheur and UTHSC task force developed a 21-page report of suggested protocols.

Among them: children get a daily symptom screening by parents, schools set up a designated room and ill students leave within an hour, students don't share supplies, and staff cleans playgrounds and gyms.

"I think there's going to be a lot we are going to learn from frontline teachers, the administrators, about how we are going to have to evolve and change some of those guidelines as we get more into the school year," Dr. McCullers said.

Dr. McCullers with UTHSC said school districts must also help health experts with specific contact lists if a student of staff member tests positive for COVID-10.

He added first and foremost, there's the two main safety priorities.

"At least six feet between the kids at all times, and six feet between the kids and instructors at all times - and that everyone wear a mask or face covering during school to the extent possible," Dr. McCullers said.

Monday, the Shelby County Schools superintendent announced the state's largest school district will begin the year with all virtual learning for the time being.

SCS hasn't commented yet on their fall sports participation plans, as Gov. Bill Lee is expected to finalize an executive order allowing fall high school contact sports.

Memphis doctors expressed their health concerns Wednesday and Thursday.

Like so many school districts across the country who find themselves in the impossible situation of responding to an uncertain and rapidly evolving health crisis, we continue to rely on science to make decisions about the safe opening of our schools.