The $750,000 donated by Shelby County Schools funds targets purchasing headsets and other digital devices for students to use while learning from home.

With word Monday that Shelby County Schools will open on Aug. 31 as a
virtual experience, parents now are in an accelerated mode to wrap their minds
around yet another adjustment forced by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to Supt. Joris Ray, schools will stay on the virtual path pending
further notice.

Data reported by SCS indicated that 80 percent of parents are in agreement
that virtual learning was the option of choice.

After the announcement, The New Tri-State Defender sampled Memphis
parents to get a community-level feel for the decision and the uncertainty ahead.

Takeisha Berry Brooks, SCS parent (school TBC)
Owner, A Natural Affair

“I think virtual is great, although I know it’s going to take some dedication
and work from the parents. Considering what we have going on and not knowing
how long COVID is going to exist and not having a treatment for it, it’s all very

“I feel that if the schools open back up, the numbers will increase. I just
don’t want to expose my children. Every child should be tested if they are going to
back to classrooms at least 14 days before the first day. It will be a better, safer
approach if we know who has tested positive or negative.”

Lee Rankin
Attorney, The Lee Rankin Group, STEAM Parent

“I am personally relieved at SCS’s decision for all students to attend
virtually this upcoming semester. That’s a difficult decision for any parent to make
– but especially for those without the option of staying home, lacking resources
and childcare for their children. I was heartened to see that SCS is circulating info regarding childcare resources and providing electronic devices to those who need

“As a community we have this opportunity to wrap our arms around those
most affected by this pandemic – instead of always taking shots at a school system
charged with educating a large population of children who live in some of the
poorest ZIP codes in the nation. As the African proverb goes, “It takes an entire
village to raise a child.”

Cherhonda Mason-Ayers
Former educator, Bellevue parent

“In my opinion, the decision to go virtual was the very best decision SCS
could have made for students and teachers alike. While it may pose an
inconvenience, forcing parents to consider more creative ways of childcare and
requiring us to come together more as a village, it’s the best way to keep our
teachers and young people safe.

“There is just no way for the district to safely manage all of the variables and
outliers – bus riders, temperature checks, holding spaces for children who are ill,
transportation challenges for those ill students who need to be dismissed.

“Then we ask our teachers to go into this environment when they don’t want
to be exposed or bring anything home to their families or conversely expose the
students that they are supposed to serve and protect. Had they voted for in-person
class, it would have potentially been a domino effect of catastrophic proportions.

“I believe it would have been wise to have made the decision earlier to
ensure that teachers could have adequate training and best practices for virtual
teaching. And they should have devoted more time to creating a comprehensive
contingency plan that would help mitigate the issues with dead zones and getting
the kids the devices on time for the first the day of school.

“Nonetheless, I appreciate the final decision. I, as a parent, will be actively
working in tandem with the instructors to ensure that our son is actively engaged to
get the most out of his learning opportunities however they look.”

Cristina McCarter
Sea Isle Elementary parent; Owner, City Tasting Tours

“My decision was easy to make once I saw the plan. I was thinking for
elementary aged children…they have to sit down for six hours and wear masks, no
recess, lunch in one place… that would have been like torture for my son.

“Once they have too many cases, they would end up going virtual anyway.
So they may as well do it now so parents can prepare and adjust their homes and work schedules. Employers should be understanding about the situation. No one
should be at risk of being fired. (As a parent) you gotta do what you gotta do. My
mom used to take me to work with her sometimes.

“As far as the learning part, I don’t know how that’s going to work. We’ve
been doing stuff at home over the summer, though nothing consistent for over
three hours. I don’t know how I will keep his attention span for a two-hour
reading/English class! The other classes are 45 minutes to an hour so that should
be fine. I guess time will tell. But I will have to sit there with him to make sure he
isn’t falling asleep!”

Kynis Douglas
Central H.S. parent

“Our family planned for my daughter to go back to school. I’m 100 percent
responsible for her care and education, though my mother helps quite a bit. We
made the decision based on her age, maturity and educational needs. I understand
the risk associated with sending her back…the possible exposure to her, me and
my mother.

“In terms of what’s best for her education-wise, she needs to be in school. I
want the subject matter experts to teach her. It’s just the best model for her
learning style.

“I am not in any way surprised that everyone is starting the year off
virtually. To be honest, I anticipated it. It was the right decision from a public
health standpoint but it will impose tremendous challenges for working parents,
myself included. I work full time. Although I have flexibility and a tremendous
support system, I’m still in the middle of figuring out how this is supposed to be.

“One of the things I considered is forming a cohort but at the high school
level it’s a little more difficult. Their course loads vary greatly, more so than in
elementary and middle school. How do you cohort with people that are in different
classes? I’ve even joined a Facebook group of parents looking to form cohorts. I’m
looking at all the options and hoping that this will be a short-term arrangement.

“I’m also looking at the extracurricular part of it. It’s not the most important
piece but it is a critical component of her educational experience. I still have a lot
of questions at this point, but my goal remains the same – to make the best the
decisions for her as a parent. It’s just another challenge to overcome.”