MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - While Shelby County school districts are on fall break, the health department is clarifying who has the right to mandate COVID-19 protocols inside schools.
In its latest health directive, the health department says those decisions are up to the district and school board and always have been.
Believe it or not, schools are halfway through the first semester, and some parents are deciding what their child’s schooling will look like come the second semester. While they make that decision, the health department is saying districts can make their own requirements for masking and social distancing.
But while thousands of Shelby County students are on fall break, the community is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We’re seeing cases being reported now at similar levels to what we saw at the peak of the epidemic in July,” said David Sweat, Shelby County Health Department deputy director.
And it’s those levels that remind Danielle Davis she made the right decision for her two Collierville Schools students to keep them in virtual learning throughout the semester.
“It’s a petri dish on a good day, so with COVID is was just too much risk,” Davis said.
Collierville Schools is in the process of transitioning some of its students to full-time in-person classes. Tuesday it said those middle school students who are on a hybrid schedule will transition to a traditional schedule as early as November.
District spokesman Mario Hogue said the plan will continue to support six feet of social distancing in classrooms. It’s one of the golden rules the Shelby County Health Department continues to recommend for districts. Though, in its most recent health directive, the health department said COVID-19 protocols are up to the districts and school boards.
“What health directive 14 just clarifies, in the plainest language we can come up with, is these are decisions that are not the health department’s decision to make,” Sweat said.
Collierville Schools said everyone inside buildings will continue to wear masks.
Davis plans to keep her children out of in-person classrooms until there is a vaccine but said she would’ve been disappointed if the district had decided to relax masking requirements.
“Given the numbers we’re still hearing about, the infection rates and the lack of other precautions, I’d feel a lot better if they were keeping the masks on,” Davis said.
WMC Actions News 5 reached out to all six Shelby County municipal school districts with students inside classrooms to ask if masking requirements will change. Given that it is fall break, we have only heard back from two districts at this time, Collierville and Millington, which also said it plans to keep its mask mandate in place.