Shelby County educators weigh in on first week of in-person learning

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s the first week back for in-person learning, and Shelby County educators are weighing in on how things are going since students and teachers returned to classrooms.

Shelby County teachers are back in class as they adjust to learning in a pandemic. The SCS superintendent says it’s going well.

“It’s a new day. It’s a new way to educate our students. You have on masks. You have to wash your hands constantly. Socially distanced, students behind their actual screens to ensure safety. Again, we returned stronger, and we returned safely,” said Shelby County School Superintendent Joris Ray.

But, Keith Williams, who heads up the  Shelby County Education Association says teachers are telling them otherwise.

“The overarching theme of them is the schools are not clean. All schools do not have running water. They have no hot water,” Williams said.

He asked teachers to send him pictures of what they found as they returned to school. He says some sent pictures of dirty and unhealthy conditions.

“We have picture of some schools that are filthy. We have pictures of some schools where the HVAC system is not working. Pictures of school were the floor is filthy. Pictures of schools where there is mold still,” says Williams.

He says teachers are worried about the quality of dividers used to separate students.

“You can see from the pictures it’s plastic, it’s cardboard seemingly, and it is not durable. This district received 48-million dollars to get ready for this pandemic. Where was that spent?” Williams said.

We sent the pictures to Shelby County Schools for comment. Danette Stokes heads up the other teacher’s union in Shelby county, the United Education Association.

“I have seen PPEs in the building. I have seen some of the students. The engagement they are having,” Stokes said.

She spent the first days touring seven schools across the district and saw something different.

“I have spoken with some teachers. They are excited to be back. The students of course they are excited to be back as well,” said Stokes.

She says teachers are adapting to teaching virtual and in person. But for some, that adapting is not so easy.

“I just wish the district would be more forthright, more lenient and would have more integrity about the quality of life for teachers,” said Williams.

Shelby County School leaders say they will check out the photos of conditions at the schools and get back with us.

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