SCS Superintendent Ray discusses challenges the district faces during the pandemic

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said it could be as late as 2022 until teachers and students return to in-person learning if need be, in order to protect them from Coronavirus.

“It’s so many factors that play into returning back to school and if you notice our school district, we provide meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We have job fairs for families. We’re trying to do everything we can to prepare our students and teachers and the community to return back to in-person when it’s safe.”

FOX13′s Mearl Purvis asked Ray if that might mean waiting until 2022.

“Well Mearl, you know if the numbers are in triple digits for where they are now, we will continue to follow science,” said Ray.

During a one-on-one interview, Dr. Ray also discussed teachers getting vaccinated and his plans to use millions of federal and state dollars to fight learning loss.

Virtual learning comes in many forms, but “pain in the neck” is how a percentage of parents, teachers and administrators describe it.

Superintendent Ray said he knows virtual classes can lead to learning loss, but he is adamant that during a pandemic, safety comes before everything and he is working to get SCS teachers prioritized on the list to get COVID-19 vaccines.

FOX13 asked the superintendent if he is prepared to fire teachers who will not take the vaccine and who refuse to come back for in-person learning.

“You can never fire your way into effectiveness,” he said. “My teachers mean so much to me and I want to give teachers an opportunity. That’s a personal choice.”

Ray says students are getting a great learning experience even if it’s virtual.

“Right now, as you know, school is in. Our teachers, our students see a teacher every day, unlike other virtual learning platforms,” Ray said.

RELATED: Learning losses are piling up as millions of Tennessee students continue remote learning

FOX13 asked the superintendent why he thinks the learning loss is so great in math and reading.

“Nothing can replace in-person instruction then you have to understand the social and emotional effect that the pandemic has had on our students as well as our teachers,” Ray said. It’s scary when our students walk and they see folks with masks on, when you’ve had family members to get sick and possibly die.”

Shelby County Schools is set to potentially get millions of dollars in federal and state Covid-19 relief funds. FOX13 asked about Ray’s specific plans to use the funds to help students catchup where there is learning loss.

“We have the fall and spring learning academy. They give students remediation as well as enrichment,” said Ray. “Also this summer we propose that K-12 to have opportunities for students to ensure that we recoup any learning gaps.”

FOX13 asked Ray if he will use some of the millions of federal and state money to give teachers a bonus for the extra work they do after hours to prepare for virtual class.

He said yes, and he will call it Hero Pay.

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