Shelby County middle, high school students return to class Monday

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One year after the coronavirus first appeared in Shelby County, some middle and high school students went back to the classroom on Monday.

Calvin Wilhite, a graduate of Douglass High, was there Monday morning as the students returned. He felt it was only fitting to cheer on future alums as they navigate a new norm.

“I just wanted to come by here and see things move around smoothly,” he told WREG’s Jerrita Patterson.

“For these kids, these kids are underprivileged,” he added. “Their parents don’t have the money to have the internet system, to have the computers, they don’t even have the space.”

Sixth through 12th graders who chose to come back had plenty of space as schools reopened with social distancing in mind. The district took a step-by step approach when it came to re-opening schools. First they allowed the younger students return, and this week the older students returned.

Shelby County School officials assured parents during a town hall meeting over the weekend that every precaution has been taken to keep their kids safe, but there was some concern that, unlike elementary school students, older students may be less likely to follow the safety protocols.

SCS said masks must be worn at all times, and if a student doesn’t have a mask, one will be provided to them. Social distancing will be enforced and students will have their temperature checked at the door. There will also be plenty of sanitation stations and cleaning in schools to keep everyone safe.

“We all must take pride in our buildings, to keep them sanitized and clean because our students deserve it, our teachers deserve it,” said Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray.

School officials were asked if they had learned anything from their return.

“We will need mask breaks throughout the day for adults and for students, and so again, that may look different from school to school,” said SCS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Angela Whitelaw. “Teachers may want to walk outside. We saw at one school where a teacher just walked around the building and made sure all the students were apart from each other.”

With high schoolers returning to class Monday, they may be wondering when the vaccine will be available to them. Chief Medical Advisor Dr Anthony Fauci said older students will “very likely” be able to get the vaccine sometime in the fall. Younger students may have to wait until 2022.

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