SCS board member: Where’s the plan for reopening?

Concerns surrounding when and how SCS students can return to classrooms

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There are growing concerns and frustration about what extended virtual learning could mean for Shelby County Schools students and for Memphis’ future. Some are now demanding SCS provide more answers about its reopening plan.

“Let me be clear, I will not politicize the safety. There are multiple factors and I and our dedicated board are weighing all of them,” said SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray.

SCS Superintendent defends district’s decision to delay in-person learning

But there’s also disagreement among Ray and some SCS board members about virtual learning.

SCS Board Member Sheleah Harris says she wants to see a detailed plan about how the district will bring students and teachers back to school buildings.

“When preparing to reopen the doors of our schools, we should have a clear, detailed plan, not just a framework or outline. An actual step-by-step guide so our families, teachers, and community can fully understand what we need to reopen safely,” said Harris. “The Superintendent and Administration is responsible for presenting a plan that we can support and implement, which I have yet to see. Not just a few bullet points wrapped in a nice PowerPoint, but something we can confidently share out that provides assurance from the community that we are working diligently to get our students and educators back in the buildings.”

Harris says she has many of the same concerns Memphis Chamber president, Beverly Robertson, outlined in a letter to Ray and board members.

Memphis Chamber president sends letter of concern to SCS superintendent

“So, my biggest concern is longer-term, you know, how are we bringing young people back into the schools and most importantly, what are the skills that they have lost and how do we make up for those learning losses,” said Robertson.

Robertson says if the district has a plan, it needs to share it with the broader community because she says everyone has a stake in the success of SCS students.

“Our goal at the chamber is economic prosperity for all, not a few, but for all,” said Robertson. “So, we are concerned about how do we make up for the learning losses that have been experienced as a result of a pandemic.”

WMC reached out to SCS for a response to Robertson and to Harris.

The district has not yet 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.

Related | Shelby County Schools plans for January return to in-person learning

Last month, Ray spoke with WMC about the highs and lows of operating Tennessee’s largest school district during the pandemic.

Superintendent of Tennessee’s largest school district reflects SCS highs and lows through the pandem

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