MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On Monday, the largest school district in Tennessee will start their school year completely virtual. Shelby County Schools will work through the weekend getting laptops or tablets to all 95,000 students.
Teachers said prep for the first day of virtual learning took a lot more time than a normal year of teaching. As we go into the last weekend of summer for more than 95,000 students, it’s a whole community effort to get Shelby County Schools going with all virtual learning without a hitch.
Several more people will be reporting to the Shelby County government buildings in Downtown Memphis and off Mullins Station Road come Monday.
“It will feel like a classroom,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said. “We are really excited for the prospect of kids to continue their learning even in this very, very unique year.”
Shelby County Government is setting up its Virtual Learning Academies- spaces where county employees can send their elementary school children to be supervised while doing their virtual learning.
Mayor Harris said it won’t support all the need, and he’s urging the whole community to step up.
“We’re going to do our part to meet some of that need, but we’re not going to close that gap alone,” Mayor Harris said. “We’re recommending every organization that has some capacity set up these kinds of academies.”
To help support those organizations that are already setting up similar spaces, the Shelby County government has donated $1 million in CARES funding to the YMCA.
The SCG Virtual Academy has dividers, socially distant desks, and teacher support.
From the county mayor’s office to the classroom, thousands of people in Shelby County are using the weekend before school starts to finish their last-minute preparations.
“Us teachers have been working tirelessly not only on Microsoft Teams, the platform we’ll be using, but also getting all our curriculum to be digitally accessible,” Hickory Ridge Elementary second grade teacher Ciara Slade-Trejo said.
Officials at Hickory Ridge Elementary School know more than 70 percent of students have received their digital devices. Principals across the district will be making calls all weekend to remind those families who have not picked up the devices yet to do so.
Slade-Trejo said this school year everyone will be learning.
“It’s been a lot of long days, but it’s been satisfying to be on the learning end,” Slade-Trejo said.
Along with a late device pick-up, other factors may keep students from being able to log on the first day including MLGW outages and cut-offs. SCS is emphasizing its new absence code because of a disconnection or power outage.
Throughout this process, teachers have said grace is the motto for this year. While they hope they’ll be shown grace as they learn the ropes, they’ll also be showing grace to their students.
SCS human resources department is also using every day leading up to the start of school to fill instructional vacancies. The department said there were more than 5,800 instructional openings at the beginning of the summer, and 99 percent of those have been filled.
Human resource officials said every child will have a teacher on their first day. Current vacancies will be filled by certified substitute teachers.