MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Catholic School students across the Mid-South went back to school this week. The ten schools within the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Memphis have differing back-to-school plans, and not all plans included a 100 percent virtual option.
About 20 percent of the student body at St. Benedict at Auburndale in Cordova will start school online. Leading up to the first day of school, parents and students were able to get a peek of what the school looks like now.
"This week as been going very well, but we've been telling ourselves we only have 25 percent of the kids on campus," St. Benedict at Auburndale Principal Sondra Morris said.
All week, each grade level at St. Benedict at Auburndale has spent a few hours at school getting used to what in person classes look like during a pandemic which include infrared thermometers, hallway arrows and desk dividers.
On Friday, everyone will be back for the official first day of school.
"Our diocese released a plan to principals in late July and from there it was up to us to make it our own because all of our campuses are so different," Morris said.
Morris is the principal at SBA and the Interim Superintendent for the Catholic Schools of Memphis. She said the ten schools in Memphis and West Tennessee went back to school this week, and most had an option for virtual learning.
"We have an early childhood center in Collierville that is on campus and we have St. Paul's Elementary in Whitehaven that is predominately on campus," Morris said.
"I immediately freaked out," one parent said. "Because of the pandemic I just thought every school should have an option."
One Catholic School parent spoke to WMC Action News 5, but did not want to publicly identify herself or her child's school for the protection of her child. However, she said she didn't have an option beyond sending her child to traditional in-person classes.
"I'm pleased with the temperature takes in the morning and trying to keep the distance but at the same time it's still a risk, the parent said.
"Some [schools] have more devices to deploy and some don't," Morris said. "Everybody will at least be able to accommodate anyone who is quarantined or isolated to continue the learning off campus."
That parent who we talked to said she took a parent survey about learning methods and said she'd like a remote option. She was also willing to use the family's own device. That is what her child used when schools closed in the spring.
In July, Bishop David Talley sent a letter to families. In part, it said:
“As you are aware, our diocese formed a task force in May comprised of health professionals to assist our school leaders in formulating a plan to return to school in a safe and healthy manner. I am pleased to report that this committee has presented their recommendations to our local school leaders and our school leaders are adapting the recommendations to their school. The health and safety recommendations for our schools are based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), State and Local Health Departments and the State Department of Education. The office of Catholic Schools will continue to monitor news from the CDC and guidance from our public health officials and will make adjustments as needed.”