Shelby County Schools parents left with more questions after governor extends state of emergency

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — As Gov. Bill Lee extends the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Tennessee through August 29, the decision is having a potential ripple effect for Shelby County schools parents and when their children could likely return to the classroom.

“I am unsure of them returning to school,” Shelby County parent Angela Olinger said. “I have underlying health issues, so if my daughter goes to school and contracts the virus, she could bring it home to me, and I could be hospitalized.”

Some Shelby County Schools parents said if the start of the school year is pushed back, as the district’s superintendent suggested, it still leaves them with no clear cut answers.

“Virtual learning is hard for parents who go to work and can’t work from home because you can’t send your child to daycare if they’re supposed to be at home doing virtual learning,” Olinger said. “How is that going to work?”

Parents’ questions come after a post on Twitter on Monday night by SCS Superintendent Joris Ray.

“If you’re going to run schools in shifts, if you’re going to give parents options of brick and mortar buildings or being at home, you need to know how that’s going to happen,” Shelby County Education Association President Keith Williams said. “We’re in a strange place, and he doesn’t know how that’s going to occur … We must be cautious on how we proceed. Some of it will be virtual, some will be in the classroom, but I do think this school system needs to stay out of the business of trying to man the pandemic.”

In the Tennessee legislature, Memphis Republican Rep. Mark White chairs several education committees and supports Ray’s plan.

“We need to get them (students) back in school,” Rep. White said. “They’ve been out too long. If he would like seeing moving it to after labor day into early September, I’m not opposed to that. That may be a wise decision. But once we make a decision, let’s move forward so our parents can plan.”

Parents hope they’re left with school options as the pandemic continues.

“If the numbers continue to go up, I am hoping they would give us an option to return in school or virtually,” Olinger said.

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