Increasing COVID-19 cases pushes SCS to go all-virtual indefinitely

Updated: Jul. 27, 2020 at 6:07 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee’s largest school district is going all virtual.

On Monday, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray announced all district schools will open virtually on Aug. 31 and will remain virtual until further notice.

SCS says more than 80% of families who selected a fall learning option requested virtual learning.

Rays says after studying the increasing cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, there was really no other choice.

“I stand before you to have a difficult conversation about the impossible situation that districts all over this country find themselves in,” Ray said in a pre-recorde

d video produced by SCS.

Ray says despite a desire to hold in-person classes, it’s simply not safe.

“Direction signs on floors, spacing desks, more hand sanitizer, and masks cannot make your school safe in a community that is experiencing a daily triple-digit increase of virus cases,” said Ray. “Teachers will have options to teach remotely or in classrooms, but all students will be at home for their school day until further notice.”

SCS says tablets or laptops will be provided for every student. The district will start handing these out next week.

The district says it will also provide hotspot internet connection devices to 25% of students based on need.

SCS says meals will still be provided at every school. Parents will be able to pick up multi-day meal packs. These are meals that can be reheated or stored at home.

The district says it's identifying local childcare providers who offer reduced or no-cost childcare options for families.

It's a lot to take in, but Ray says safety is the most important thing.

“My commitment to you is that we will open our buildings, as soon as it is safe to do so and that no matter what, on the first day of school, teachers will be ready to teach your child online and for the entire school day,” said Ray.

Keith Williams, the executive director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, says Ray's announcement is long overdue.

“It is the right decision and it should have been made earlier, we believe, because we could have put more time into the planning of the opening of school and virtual learning,” said Williams.

Williams says everyone involved in education must now pull together quickly to make sure the school year gets off to a smooth start, and in a way no one imagined a few months ago.

“This is something that we ought to be able to adapt to and work with and I think it’s a win-win for teachers and for the district and for parents and for children in the Shelby County Schools,” said Williams.

Ray says he will provide more details next week to parents, showing them more about what online learning looks like.

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