First day back in classrooms for Shelby County Schools

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 5:53 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Monday was the first day back in school for Shelby County School teachers and some students.

The district welcomed Pre-K thru 5th-grade students back into the classroom, students in 6th through 12th-grade return March 8th.

Related: SCS elementary students return to in-person learning after nearly one year

“This is a very exciting day as we return in person, stronger,” SCS superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said. It’s been almost a year since the district closed all of its schools due to COVID-19.

“We’re stronger together. Coronavirus did not defeat us, because we are 901,” Dr. Ray said.

Monday, about 30% of students returned to the classroom.

Parents dropping off their children told WMC they feel having their child back in the classroom will help them excel academically.

“You know he’s an exceptional student at school, but not too good at home on the computer so we’re glad to be going back,” SCS parent Lisa Roney said.

Over at Riverwood Elementary, the principal said all of her teachers came back.

Shelby Swindell, a second-grade teacher at Riverwood said she had no hesitation to return.

“I currently have eight that are in my room right now, so it feels very safe, spaced out,” Swindell said.

“We have a lot of safety precautions, we have dividers in the rooms, the kids are spaced out. We have taped boxes for them so they can still even get up and stand and move around,” Swindell said.

This past week, the district achieved its goal of vaccinating 6,000 employees. The goal is 2,000 employees a day.

Some teachers have expressed they would have preferred to be fully vaccinated, but say the procedures in place make them feel safe.

“It’s a sacrifice, because I have a family I have a home, I have a mom who is 80 years old but still I know this is my gift,” 5th-grade teacher, Brenda Taylor said.

As you walk into every classroom at Riverwood Elementary, children are socially distant, wearing masks and have shields on their desks.

“I was really excited to see my teacher and my friends, even though three people were coming back,” Aryah Henderson, 2nd grade.

“It feels great, I don’t really like sitting on the computer, we still are but it’s better to see everyone in person,” Randy Butler, 5th grade said.

While some students don’t mind the guidelines and procedures in place, others said they do. “It is a bit tough sometimes wearing a mask all day because sometimes it does get sweaty, and other times it just doesn’t feel good on your face and sometimes it hurts your ears on the straps,” Butler said.

For more stories on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit

“It’s not that complicated, they are easy to follow but they are safe,” Khole Cooper, 5th grade said.

Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said the district’s risk management team works with the Shelby County Health Department on a daily basis.

“When someone does get sick we take the proper steps working with our health department, we do things at the school level,” Dr. Ray said.

Dr. Ray said he wants to be transparent when it comes to case numbers and contact tracing.

He also said if someone does not feel well each school has a “situation room” for isolation.

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