Schools here will likely use a hybrid model combined of in-person and distance learning when the school year starts in the fall, Shelby County Schools (SCS) officials said Monday, May 18th.
At a Monday press conference, Joris Ray, SCS superintendent, said the district is preparing for a return in the fall “that will be unlike any first day of school.”
“This is something we’ve never experienced before,” Ray said. “The reality is we don't know what hold this virus will have on the community, and we must be prepared for a variety of scenarios.”
Ray announced SCS’s Strategic Action for Flexible Education (SAFE) plan, a contingency plan for reopening schools in the fall, and named the SCS Re-Entry Task Force, which will be charged with advising the district on a long-term strategy for reopening schools.
The task force consists of stakeholders in education, healthcare, and business, as well as elected officials. Some key members include City Council members Patrice Robinson, Dr. Jeff Warren, and Michalyn Easter-Thomas; Shelby County Commissioner Mark Billingsley, director of the Shelby County Health Department Alisha Haushalter, and vice president of government affairs for Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corporation Keith Norman.
The task force will be responsible for developing re-entry protocols, addressing transportation, meal distribution, and logistical challenges; addressing loss of instructional time, and meeting social and emotional learning needs of students and families.
“Our students are suffering,” Ray said. “They’re afraid, and we have to meet emotional needs in order for them to learn.”
SCS assistant superintendent Reggie Jackson, who will serve as the chair and facilitator of the re-entry task force, said “We have to be realistic and understand” that a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning may be necessary for the fall semester.
The task force will consider several options, Jackson said, which include a complete or near-complete re-entry of all students, staggered schedules for students, or complete online learning with only a few students inside schools at a given time.
Jackson said the task force will be meeting weekly to develop a reopening plan, which Ray said will likely be solidified by early July. Ahead of that decision, Ray said SCS will hold a series of community meetings to gather input from the public on the district’s reopening plan. The dates of those meetings have not been set yet.