MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new voice is sharing her concerns about the impact of virtual learning and the impact learning loss could have on Memphis in the years ahead.
Memphis Chamber President Beverly Robertson sent a letter to SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray and SCS board members, outlining concerns she shares with others about SCS’ virtual learning.
“I join the entire community in expressing appreciation for the hard, complicated work you and your teams have advanced in sustaining remote learning. I would, however, not be totally candid if I failed to also give voice to the deep frustration and mounting confusion many community leaders, business executives, and ordinary citizens have continued to quietly express about the reopening of Shelby County Schools. This frustration has escalated in recent weeks with the missed opportunities to share re-opening plans, the verbal clashes with officials in Nashville, and Friday’s announcement that schools will be closed indefinitely – a word that exacerbates concerns.”
“Right now, we do not have a new target date for returning to buildings as we base our local decisions on the health and safety of our students and educators,” said Jerica Phillips, chief of communications for Shelby County Schools.
Robertson says while she understands concerns about safety, she points to recent guidelines by the CDC, recommending students return to in-person learning, with appropriate safety protocols.
“This decision has been backed by Dr. Anthony Fauci,” Robertson wrote.
Robertson says there are many questions the district has still not answered:
- What specifically does SCS need in order for teachers and students to return?
- What pilots or beta tests at selected schools have been run to outline the operations for a potential return?
- What benchmarked strategies are being implemented to get teachers back to work?
- What is the vaccine distribution plan for teachers once they are available and how can we support it?
“I’m sure the school system has probably been working on it, but I also think the general public has not heard about that,” said Robertson. “And so, because they haven’t, you got aunts and uncles and church members and neighbors and members of organizations who want to know what role can we in helping you.”
Robertson says future development depends heavily on skills students develop in school.
She worries learning loss will make it harder for Memphis to compete.
“Because it’s different. The requirements are different, the prerequisites are different,” said Robertson. “And so while the chamber wouldn’t normally be speaking on issues like that, this issue is a critical issue for economic development.”
WMC reached out to SCS to get a response to Robertson’s letter.
So far, the district has not provided a comment.
In October 2020, SCS planned to return to the classroom in January 2021. School leaders made changes after coronavirus cases increased over the holidays.