Governor Lee calls out districts still in remote learning, SCS Superintendent responds

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee believes every student should be back in the classroom and in a way, called out Shelby County Schools, which is still online only.

During the start of the General Assembly’s special session, Governor Lee urged the last two school districts in the state to reopen schools and follow the lead of the other 145 districts that already resumed in-person learning.

“Here’s the bottom line: you can’t say “follow the science” and keep schools closed. You can’t say “I believe in public education” and keep schools closed,” he said during his announcement.

Lee believes districts aren’t putting the needs of students first if schools remain closed.

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“That’s why I’m so proud of our districts who have kids in school, and to those who remain closed, I would offer this simple encouragement: follow the science. Getting kids back in the classroom is imperative,” said Governor Lee.

Shelby County Schools is one of those districts that is still teaching online only.

In a tweet, Superintendent Joris Ray responded to Governor Lee’s comments. His tweet said in part, “Watching state leaders call for in-person learning on the state legislature’s virtual video meeting today sends a mixed and hypocritical message. We invite state leaders to step away from privileged podiums and try to understand the many concerns of our students, parents, and teachers.”

During Tuesday’s virtual school board work session, Dr. Ray said the pandemic has had a major impact on black and brown communities and in Shelby County, almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by the virus.

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“It is disingenuous to think that the children of poor families need any less protection than children in any other settings,” said Ray. “We will continue to follow science and encourage others to review the impact of mask mandates while we wait for vaccines to be prioritized for our great educators.”

Shortly after Ray’s statement was released online, Governor Lee doubled down on his push for in-person learning with a Facebook message to parents and teachers.

“It’s long overdue for every student to have this option. Let me be clear, getting kids back into the classroom is imperative to our success and we need every district to follow the science on this,” said Lee in the message.

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