SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County Schools are dedicating nearly a million dollars for temporary workers to help students return to in-person learning.
The Shelby County School Board signed off on that money to a third party vendor for monitors. Their job would be to oversee those students in a classroom whose teacher chose to continue to teach virtually due to COVID-19 concerns.
This decision comes as the CDC released a report saying schools can re-open safely with precautions like masks and smaller class sizes. The money would pay for 100 monitors, and records WREG-TV uncovered show just how few teachers are comfortable returning to in-person learning.
The plan is to potentially return to in-person learning for Shelby County Schools is now underway. With more than $950,000 set aside, the money would pay for 100 in-classroom monitors, contracted through a job service agency.
The classroom monitors will have oversight of students in a physical classroom, which will help the teachers who chose to continue teaching remotely.
The monitors do not have teaching responsibility, and their job is to make sure students stay on task during lessons. Earlier this month, a presentation for school board members revealed 190 substitutes for the district said they’re interested in serving as monitors, and 26,000 students said they’re interested in returning to in-person learning.
But take a look at these numbers, WREG dug deeper. We obainted these stats from the district from a survey done in November.
It showed, 6,300 teachers out of 7,000 responded and they chose between returning to a physical classroom or remaining virtual.
The results overwhelmingly favor remaining virtual, with more than 5,100 teachers choosing the option during the pandemic compared to a little more than 1,200 returning to in-person.
Keith Williams, the Executive Director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association has reservations about the monitors roles in the classroom. He believes teachers should have a say in plan.
“The concept sounds good,” Williams said. “Opening schools is going to be a big task, and it better be done right, it ought to be safe. It should have some guidelines and restrictions, and you need teachers there. You do not need people there to watch children, to babysit children. We are not a babysitting agency, we certainly are not a prison.”
As the district grapples with concerns and plans to safely return., this week the Centers for Disease Control released an article saying evidence shows schools can re-open if plenty of precautions are taken.
“It’s going to remain controversial but there are clear benefits everyone I know and will agree with. The question is it safe and the data is suggesting beyond what I would have thought in the beginning that it really is safe to be in a classroom situation,” Dr. Steve threlkeld, an Infectious Disease Expert at Baptist Memorial Hospital, said.
We reached out to the district for a more information on the monitors and if there is a possible date to return in person. But so far have not heard back