Shelby County Schools won’t give reopening date or provide reopening criteria

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Shelby County Schools is now the only school district in Tennessee with no in-person learning option. Thursday, the district wouldn’t give a date for reopening and wouldn’t share the specific criteria on which it would base any decision.  

Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray shared a detailed reopening plan with the school board during a committee meeting Thursday afternoon, but the plan did not include a reopening date.  

“I’m satisfied that we can go back February 15,” board member William Orgel said during the meeting. 

State Republicans, including Governor Bill Lee, have threatened to cut funding to school district without a minimum of 70 days of in-person classes this year.  

At this point, SCS would be the only district in danger of that.  

Ray did not address what the district might do should this happen, but did defend the district’s decision to remain virtual. 

“We can talk about data all day but we have to help our families get over the fear,” said Ray. 

During a 15-minute press conference – Ray’s only press availability this week – he acknowledged declining positivity rates and case numbers in Shelby County.  

But when asked what numbers SCS would need to see in order to reopen, Ray would not provide any. 

“We’re following all the data, we’re looking at all the science. We’re not picking or choosing what we’re looking at,” he said. 

When in-person classes do resume, the district’s reopening plan calls for masks, temperature checks and staggered entry times.  

The district also has a plan for vaccinating teachers under which 1,170 teachers would be vaccinated each day.  

Vaccinations are supposed to begin February 15 but could be delayed if the district doesn’t get confirmation from the health department by Monday that it has enough doses.  

The United Education Association of Shelby County says it plans to hold a press conference Friday morning to demand that in-person classes not resume until teachers have been vaccinated.  

Thursday, Ray revealed that only 4,600 SCS employees said they would get a vaccine if given the opportunity. 

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