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Le Bonheur says "learning pods" could be an option to SCS return-to-school plan

Shelby County Schools is looking into students returning to the classrooms in January.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Parent of Shelby County School students have by the end of Friday to make a major decision on whether they want to send their children back to school next semester or continue virtual learning.

The district in it's return-to-school plan said SCS is proposing sending students back in January. Although the plan is still a proposal and not firm, the district wants an answer from parents so they can plan for staffing and student services.

“The benefits of classroom teaching by actual teachers to students I think outweigh any risks because the risks are incredibly small," Dr. Sandy Arnold, Le Bonheur Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said.

Dr. Arnold said children attending school again should be the optimal goal that the community is striving for.

“We should all be behaving and doing all the things that prevent us from getting the prevention and if we all do that kids would be able to be in school right now," she said.

For parents over virtual learning but unprepared to send their child back, a virtual learning option Le Bonheur says parents can consider is "learning pods".

Learning pods are small groups of children who learn virtually but in one home together arranged by parents and supervised by one. The arrangement means parents can continue working and students can get interaction.

“The potential for exposure to COVID-19 is a lot less because it’s a much smaller group and you can pick who is in it and know what they’re doing and decide whether you can trust that family to be having safe practices, masking and social distancing," Dr. Arnold said.

Ultimately, she said, parents need to make sure their child is in the best environment for them to learn the best they can in order to prevent further slippage.

“If you have any concerns that your home environment is not optimal, it's not an optimal learning environment because of distractions or a lack of supervision, then you need to strongly consider this either a learning pod or sending your child to learn in school," she said.

SCS' tentative return to school date would be January 5th for PRE-K to 5th grade and exception students. The rest of students would return on January 19th.

The district's proposal includes allowing teachers to teach remotely, if they opt out to. Students would be in the classroom learning virtually with the assistance of a school staff member.

"If you’re going to do Microsoft teams, online school with headphones and you have a safe and secure and well supervised environment already at home then I don’t think the risk benefit is in favor," Dr. Arnold said.

Learn more about the district's proposal here.

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