COVID-19: SCS, Rhodes, UTHSC, U of M Suspend Classes



As concerns about the coronavirus grow, Shelby County Schools announced Thursday that schools would be closing through the end of March beginning Friday, March 13th.

School officials are taking this proactive step although they said there still have not been any risks to schools identified by the Health Department.

“However due to national developments and rapidly changing conditions regarding the spread of COVID-19, Superintendent [Joris] Ray, our school board, and district leadership believe this is the most responsible course of action at this time,” reads the statement from SCS. “Closing schools is never a decision that we take lightly.”

Schools will be closed for a total of 11 days, including five days scheduled for spring break next week. Officials said during that time, the district will perform deep cleaning to all school buildings, fully assess potential risks associated with individuals who may be traveling over the break, and plan for “a variety of contingencies that will better prepare us to support schools if conditions become more complicated in the future.”

Late Wednesday Rhodes College announced that all in-person classes would be suspended and that the campus will implement a remote learning plan for the remainder of the semester. The college is also canceling all campus gatherings and events for the rest of the semester.

“This decision is determined to the best course of action for Rhodes to protect not only our community, but also the larger Memphis community,” a statement from the college reads. “However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and we acknowledge that what is best for us is not necessarily best for all institutions.”

The college is also asking that students who are able to do so move out by Wednesday, March 18th. International students, students without reliable internet access, and those without a home or a safe home, may request to stay on campus.

The University of Tennessee System, including the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis, has also suspended in-person classes until further notice. Classes will be offered remotely beginning March 23rd. All university-sponsored events will also be cancelled beginning then.

The University of Memphis said Thursday that spring break would be extended for an additional week and that classes will resume Monday, March 23rd. Beginning then, the majority of courses will be held virtually for the remainder of the semester. Additionally, university-sponsored events with more than 150 attendees will be canceled or postponed.

The campus will not close, however, as officials said campus housing and dining are essential for a large number of students. Cleaning and social distancing guidelines will be shared with those utilizing university housing and dining facilities.

Shelby County Health Department officials said Wednesday that there are no new cases of the coronavirus in the county and that everyone who came into contact with the patient here testing positive for the virus — approximately 80 individuals — has been quarantined.

As of Wednesday, nine patients in Tennessee have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Check the health department's webpage dedicated to COVID-19 for more information. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center also has a page dedicated to updates COVID-19 information.

Shelby County officials have also launched their own portal with up-to-date, essential information about the virus.

This story was updated to include information about the University of Memphis.

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