Shelby County Schools superintendent details virtual learning plan to county commission

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — With the start of a school year that promises to be like no other, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray appeared before county commissioners in a webinar Wednesday to explain the district’s virtual reopening plans for students on Aug. 31.

“No one will force us to open schools if they’re unsafe, and right now, I deem that our community is unsafe to start schools,” Ray said. “We had an increase of COVID-19 cases in our community.”

Using slides, the superintendent detailed the principles of the SAFE plan, or Strategic Action for Safe Education.

He admitted not everyone will like it.

“You close schools, you’re upset,” Ray sad. “You open schools, people are upset. It’s not about popularity and not having folks feeling good. It’s about what’s best for students and keeping them safe.”

Ray said SCS is focused on the safety for teachers and staff, academics and social and emotional help for students.

“Our students are fearful, parents are afraid, and we’re trying provide every opportunity to support them,” Ray said.

During the education committee meeting, commissioner Edmund Ford Jr. had several questions for the superintendent about digital learning.

“I’m hopeful the individuals teachers, educators and everyone who are ‘heroes,’ I’m asking these questions, and I hope I get an actual response,” Ford said.

For example, he questioned the cost of the devices and fines if students lose them, when there will be training for teachers, will teaching assistants have jobs this fall and will school employees and dependents be covered for COVID-19?

“When we think about the significant investment we make in schools, we want to make sure we’re a good partner, but also those tough questions,” commissioner Michael Whaley said.

“I appreciate the commission, and we have them (questions) written down, and we’ll have a response by the close of today,” Ray said.

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