MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Wednesday marked the first time for SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray in appearing before county commissioners, since the district decided in late July to go all virtual to start the 2020-2021 school year.
“You close schools people are upset, you open schools people are upset,” said Ray. “It’s not about popularity.”
Ray told commissioners the decision to go all virtual was not easy, but it all boiled down to safety.
The district started its digital device distribution this week ahead of an August 31 school year start. Ray said more than 90 percent of teachers have been trained on Microsoft Teams, along with nearly 4,000 parents.
“We are trying to do everything we can to bridge that gap to ensure that our families are connected and to provide a world-class education,” he said.
Ray said despite calls for hazard pay for SCS staff, the district is restricted from using federal CARES Act funds for that purpose.
“I do think all of our teachers and all of our staff members are doing an outstanding job, and we would love to show that support financially,” he said. “But we need resources in order to do that.”
Unlike SCS, other municipal districts in Shelby County are starting the year with in-person learning options.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Tuesday the state is working to come up with a plan to publicly report COVID-19 cases in school systems. State officials had initially said that information would not be collected or available for release.
“We know it’s urgent, because we need schools to know now that they’re opening up,” he said. “And we’ll develop that plan.”
Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter says they are awaiting further guidance from the state.
“I do think that people are going to want to have information. I know that from the beginning, that people want information,” she said. “So as much as we are able to release information we will.”
SCS says nearly 60,000 parents were surveyed before the district made the choice to go all virtual. Officials said 77.4% of parents chose virtual learning during the survey period, with the rest picking in-person learning.