SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Starting next week, parents will have to decide what kind of learning option they prefer for their students who attend Shelby County Schools.
Superintendent Joris Ray announced Monday evening that the school year will remain at 175 days but there may be a delayed start or end date.
Tuesday, Ray said parents will have to choose one of two options for fall 2020 – whether to send their students back in the classroom physically or continue virtually learning from home.
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Face shields for teachers, regular handwashing and increased cleanings are some of the recommendations from the SCS Re-entry Task Force for reopening schools.
After reviewing parent feedback, Ray said almost 70 percent of parents support online learning.
SCS staff said the district will continue using Microsoft Teams for classes.
“If you selected that you would like your child to receive virtual instruction from their traditional classroom teacher, they would be learning at home from the teacher simultaneously through the Microsoft Teams platform,” said SCS Chief Academic Officer Antonio Burt. “So the teacher has the capability to engage with the kids at home and also with the kids that’s at the building at the same time.”
Some school board members asked about teacher engagement. Staff said the digital platform will accommodate those connections as well.
“The instructor has the ability to record those sessions but also do voiceovers so a kid can learn step by step, go back and view until they really understand and master it, but at the end of that learning they have the ability to upload the finished product, so the teacher can give constant and immediate feedback throughout the process as long as its uploaded and shared from a virtual space,” said Burt.
For parents who choose in-person learning, the district is estimating more than $7 million for high-frequency cleaning and sanitizing.
Board member Stephanie Love said she wants city and county leaders to step in and help cover some of those costs, spending millions for cleaning and safety.
“Outlining what we need as it relates to PPE equipment, as it relates to things they have to purchase in a bulk order and give to Shelby county schools, they’re constituents as well, I don’t think this should fall on the backs of Shelby County Schools when we know the city and county received federal dollars for COVID-19 relief,” Love said.
Once a parent makes the selection about whether they want virtual or in-person learning, Ray said that will be their student’s choice for the entire semester. But he said parents could switch the option for the spring semester.
Additionally, board members want the administration to work with the health department to put together contingency plans for what happens when a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19.
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