Private school owner defends decision, says parents want school back open

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department says a Memphis-area private school must remain closed for its elementary students, although its preschool and daycare will be allowed to reopen.

Owner Michelle Cottrell is defending her decision to try and bring those students back to class.

The doors of Christ Trinity Christian Academy in the Southwind area were supposed to reopen April 27 for daycare and preschool students.

Elementary students were set to return May 4, but a directive from the health department Friday said it must remain closed.

“I’ve had a lot of parents that want me to be open because they are essential parents. They are doctors, nurses, police officers, and they need me to be open,” Cottrell said.

Daycares are considered essential businesses but Cottrell says she closed hers along with her elementary school just as a precaution in early March.

During the time that I was closed, I did pay my employees 30 hours for three weeks,” she said.

Cottrell said teachers prepared packets for parents, online curriculum was offered. Now, to qualify for the government’s small business loan, she’s putting staff back to work and wanted to put all students back to class with new safety guidelines in place.

“We’re going to keep everybody six feet away from each other. We have plenty of masks. We have plenty of gloves. We are sanitizing, cleaning, bleaching every single day,” she said.

Still some parents aren’t convinced.

“I feel like it’s a money driven decision,” said one parent who didn’t want to be identified. “That’s how I feel. They’re still requiring monthly tuition. They’ve been out all this time but they’re concerned about collecting money.”

Cottrell denies the decision is based solely on money and says she reduced tuition to $200 in April to help parents, while other private schools kept payments the same.

“Anyone who does not feel they should not come to school, that’s fine,” she said. “I’m not making people come to school but I will give you that service, but everyone has a contract that they signed.”

Cottrell says the school will continue to offer the online curriculum to elementary students until the end of the year.

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