SCS considering million-dollar plan to add 15 school days to coming school year

Updated: Jun. 15, 2020 at 7:13 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The leader of the Shelby County Teacher’s Union says Shelby County Schools is considering adding 15 days to the upcoming school year in an email sent to Shelby County teachers this week.

The plan being considered by Shelby County Schools would extend the school year and reduce breaks and it could potentially cost a lot of money.

According to a letter sent by Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray to SCS teachers, the district is considering adding 15 days to the upcoming school year to make up for time lost when schools shut down early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keith Williams, executive director of the Memphis Shelby County Education Association says teachers don’t like the idea, as students were reviewing material for standardized tests when schools closed.

“It is not going to work," said Williams. "You can’t make up what you’ve missed and we haven’t missed any instruction relative to the tests.”

Highlights of the plan being considered include:

  • Fall break changing to a four-day weekend instead of a full week
  • Thanksgiving break starting Wednesday instead of the full week
  • The school year ending June 7 for students, nine days later than scheduled

SCS estimates the cost for the plan could be between $25 million to $30 million, a number that outrages Williams.

“We’re in negotiations now and we’re only asking for $12 million to restore our salary schedule and they don’t have it," said Williams. "So where would you get $30 million?”

SCS Chief of Communications Jerica Phillips says the money that would potentially be used for the plan would come from the CARES Act and couldn’t be used in raises for teachers.

“Those have been allotted to support school districts who are addressing financial needs during the pandemic and so we know those are one-time funding sources," said Phillips.

Phillips says the school district believes it’s critical students get extra time next year to catch up on missed class time.

They’re still considering multiple options for how to best do that.

“In those 44 days that were lost last spring, it’s really important even going up until the testing and assessments that they take a deep dive into the standards and curriculum,” said Phillips.

Williams believes the district needs to open a dialogue directly with the teachers union about restarting rather than using recommendations from their re-entry task force.

“That committee was formed by the superintendent as a means of subverting the Union," said Williams.

“We’re working together," said Phillips. “We’re in this together. We want a safe return to school whether it be virtual or in class."

SCS is expected to present a calendar proposal to the school board Tuesday at 5 p.m. during an academic committee meeting.

Tonight, during a specially called school board meeting that is currently on-going, the board will vote on whether or not to purchase digital devices for all students for this upcoming school year.

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