Shelby County Schools students head back to class

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County Schools students are returning to the classrooms today, the first time many have been inside a school building in over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masks are required for students and staff inside the buildings.

MORE: Helping students transition back to in-person learning

Last week, the Shelby County Health Department updated the health directive to call for masks to be worn in all schools, preschools and daycares, regardless of vaccination status.

The community has seen a recent rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases.

The health directive is in effect through Aug. 31.

District leaders visited local churches on Sunday to help prepare parents and students for the first day of school.

Students should have all their supplies ready and digital devices fully charged when school begins.

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Megan Wright, a 5th-grader at Bruce Elementary, told FOX13 she’s adapting to the new changes at school and believes they’re needed.

“I would rather do this than stay at home,” she said.

Parents told FOX13 they’ve been having conversations with their kids about going back to school and staying safe.

“These kids are making history,” one said. “They’ll be able to tell people about this in the future.”

On Monday morning at 9 a.m., Superintendent Joris Ray welcomed students and staff back to SCS and toured several schools.

“Our students have been through so much and our students are hurting,” he said. “Their mental wellbeing is paramount to set the stage for learning for the remainder of the year.”

Ray said the district is making efforts to keep children safe by being proactive rather than reactive.

Ray said if a student or staff member tests positive for the virus, or if there is an outbreak, contact tracing will be immediately enforced.

The Shelby County Health Department also released a statement saying if a student refuses to wear a face mask, they should be sent home.

MORE: FOX13′s 13 essential items for your Back-to-School checklist