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COVID-19 Relief Fund

UPDATE (3/12/21): Believe it or not, today marks the anniversary of our announcement last March to cancel classes and close buildings amid COVID-19 developments. We faced unimaginable adversity, but with your steadfast support, we’ve triumphed through every trial. Over the past year, I hope my weekly video address has helped ease your angst and FIGHT FEAR with FACTS as we’ve journeyed through an unprecedented healthcare crisis across our nation and world. We’ve now RETURNED STRONGER, and we will continue to enhance our health and safety practices. This will be my final weekly video message; however, we'll still be updating SCS families on District-wide events and highlighting the exceptional achievements of our great educators and students. We are stronger together. Coronavirus WILL NOT and DID NOT defeat us. We are 901! Get all the latest updates in this week's video message.

UPDATE (3/5/21): This week, we welcomed back the bright faces of our youngest students. I spoke with many of them one-on-one, and they talked to me about the excitement of once again connecting with peers, interacting with teachers, and fostering new discoveries. Make no mistake, school has been IN SESSION since August, but our gradual return to in-person learning for grades Pre-K - 5 is a signal of hope -- and HOPE is PASSION for what’s POSSIBLE. Although we couldn’t physically embrace, I cannot adequately put into words the JOY we all feel to be back TOGETHER. And I must say, none of this work would be possible without our incredible principals, teachers, and support staff. Educators, you are the HEARTBEAT of our District, and I can’t thank each of you enough for your commitment and dedication to serving our precious children. As we prepare to welcome our middle and high school students next week, we want to remind you that our schools are taking every precaution necessary to keep our students and employees safe. We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19. We encourage everyone to check their temperature before leaving for school and work. If you are sick, please stay home and seek consultation from a medical professional. We rely on our families and staff to reinforce proper use of masks, hand washing and social distancing. Thank you for your patience, support and flexibility as we safely reopen our schools. We have an opportunity to be a part of history. If we continue to LEAD with LOVE and keep our students at the center of everything we do, we will offer them the best opportunity for success. Get all the latest updates in this week's video message.

UPDATE (2/27/21): It has been yet another historic week at Shelby County Schools, as thousands of educators and employees have received their COVID-19 vaccines. As I've said in recent weeks, this has been one of our greatest signs of hope in striving beyond the pandemic that has changed the world as we've known it over the past year. This was a monumental achievement in our journey, and I am thankful for the advocacy of Mayor Harris and our awesome School Board. And I’m so grateful for our District nurses, Chief of Staff, Business Operations team and so many others who have helped make these vaccination opportunities possible this week. Now, as we look ahead to the return of our students on Monday -- the moment we have poured our collective hearts and minds into, almost a year to the very day we made the tough decision to close schools -- I am filled with immense joy and pride. We are excited, and we are ready. Monday, March 1, will be a wonderful day to welcome you home and begin to write the next amazing chapter of our story. Get all the latest updates in this week's video message.

UPDATE (2/19/21): As an old song goes, “we’ve been tried by the fire” and now even SNOW, “but we are coming out GOLD!” In most purifying or refining processes, applied pressure and heat produces a product of high value and quality. When we think about the current climate and circumstances, though we may be faced with many unimaginable adversities and challenges during this pandemic and a historic winter storm, one thing is certain: We shall overcome!

UPDATE (2/5/21): From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your commitment to the children of Shelby County. Thank you for your passion for the future of this community. And thank you for the prayers of support for the hard work and HEART work during this week. Last night, I had the honor of sharing our very detailed plan for returning to in-person learning. I received many positive comments about the work of my amazing team, and I want to thank the School Board for their tremendous support. As I said last night, there are no unilateral decisions about returning to buildings. I will continue to work with the Board to identify the soonest date to return in-person that meets our local needs and conditions. There are signs of hope. The seven-day average number of cases in Shelby County continues to fall, and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has been declining for the past four weeks. But now is not the time to let our guard down. We must continue to wear masks, remain socially distanced, and continue sanitizing our hands often. I know it's been a long struggle, but we get closer to freedom every day. We are stronger TOGETHER. Coronavirus will NOT defeat us...because we are 901! Get all the latest updates in this week's video message.

UPDATE (1/29/21): Today, Superintendent Ray announced the difficult decision to delay the planned gradual reopening schools. Right now, we are unable to provide a new target date for returning to buildings as we base our local decisions on the health and safety of all students and educators. There are multiple factors, and District leaders and our dedicated Board are weighing all of them. From the discussions about vaccinations to the guidance from the CDC, schools are safe to open - but only if we all work together to reduce the infection rate in our community. The context of our decision to return in-person is the most challenging decision any of us has ever faced. However, there are reasons for hope as vaccinations are rolling out across the country, and we are working diligently with the Shelby County Health Department to train our nurses and host District sites to offer vaccinations to our educators. We pledge to return stronger, but now is not the time to deviate from our successful course of action. For those who say we need to get back to school, we say: SCHOOL is IN SESSION. Teachers are teaching their hearts out during live virtual instruction every day. We started school in August and will provide an in-person opportunity for our students and families just as soon as we can do it safely. We all want to return to normal, and we appreciate the patience of our families and staff as we weigh these critical decisions. Read more about today's announcement in the SCS Newsroom.

UPDATE (1/22/21): In a break from my scheduled weekly address, this week I come to you with a sense of urgency. Today, I issued a message publicly for our state leaders and lawmakers who are right now drafting bills that could possibly DEFUND public education. bills that could possibly DEFUND public education. View the full message here. #DontHurtOurChildren

UPDATE (1/8/21): This is my first video message of the new year and my first in several weeks, so I want to take another opportunity to wish everyone a very happy and HEALTHY 2021. Like you, I struggled while watching the rioting on Capitol Hill this week. As our students witnessed this unrest, each of us needs to seize this as a teachable moment to help young people know about the importance of CIVILITY and DEMOCRACY. As an educational leader, I -- along with the advocacy of our School Board -- have fought hard to address discriminatory practices and inequities that are historically built into the fabric of schooling. We have to work diligently to dismantle this structure which is built on systemic racism. Failure to address the root cause will only lead to further disparities for the oppressed, and let’s call it out -- that means Black and Brown students. To be sure, we have made some progress, but not nearly enough. Let us keep the FAITH for brighter days ahead. As we reflect on the year 2020, we all realize that the pandemic has unveiled historic inequities across countless areas of our society. There is no better time than now to accelerate the pace of change. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it like this: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Our principals, teachers and support staff at Shelby County Schools are operating under a sense of fierce urgency for our children. We know we can’t do education the way we once did. Many of our students and families are hurting. Through our social-emotional safety nets and supports, we are addressing the needs of the whole child, but we know it will take all of us leaning in to treat the root cause of the trauma in our communities. And when we do that, every day, day after day during 2021, we will live into another of Dr. King’s cherished visions: the welcoming, supportive, nurturing dream of the beloved community. Get all the latest updates in Dr. Ray's weekly video message.

UPDATE (12/18/20): I want you to close your eyes for a minute and think about where we were as a school district at this time last year. Students were in school buildings getting ready for the coming winter break. Teachers were planning their final lessons of the semester. And, virtual learning was something we were only dreaming about. Fast forward to the present moment, and be amazed with me at what has changed. In the course of one short, unprecedented year, we have closed the digital divide for students by providing a computer for every student in the District. Let me say that again -- since this time last year, we have closed the digital divide for our students. To be sure, this has been the work of many hands. As I reflect on the amazing year that 2020 has been, I'm honored and humbled to have served as your Superintendent through it all. And through it all, as a District, we’ve remained HOPEFUL. Once you choose hope, anything is possible. Hope is seeing the light even when surrounded by darkness. Are we where we want to be? Not at all -- there are great opportunities for improvement ahead. But, are we where we were this time last year? Not even close. As we move closer to the end of the year, I want to encourage you to take time to reflect and count your many blessings, and name them one by one. Even in the midst of tragedy, there's been so much triumph, and it's important that we all remember all of the things we have to celebrate. In addition to reflection, now is the time of year when it's worth thinking about resolutions, too. You know, resolutions are those things that we say we will do in the new year and sometimes forget on January 2. Take stock of where you are, and think about where you want to be. Then, resolve to get there. Plan your work, and then work your plan. It sounds easy enough, but so many resolutions go unfulfilled because change is hard. I know we're up to the task of changing for the better on behalf of all the students and families in Shelby County. Get all the latest updates in Dr. Ray's weekly video message.

UPDATE (12/11/20): As we prepare our hearts and minds for a much needed winter break and pause to reflect on what 2020 has taught us about appreciating those things we may have overlooked before this outbreak, I want to share the latest information on how the pandemic is impacting our schools. As you know, we are keeping the health and safety of our staff and students at the forefront of our planning as we closely monitor new COVID-19 cases and potential exposures to the virus in our community. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks, we have seen an upward trend of coronavirus cases in Shelby County. Due to this increase in cases, the Board and I agree that we will need to delay our gradual reopening of schools and return no earlier than the second semester, February 8. High-quality virtual instruction and meal services will continue. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, these are uncertain times and we will remain flexible around our reopening proposal. We recognize the pandemic presents a growing set of challenges for all of our principals, teachers, support staff, families and students. During times like this, our FAITH can be tested, and it can be hard to imagine brighter days. But, I know we can get through this as we work TOGETHER on behalf of our children. Many plans and activities have been cancelled across the city this year. Yet, HOPE is NOT cancelled. I deeply appreciate your grace, FLEXIBILITY and resilience, and look forward to the day when we can all resume some sense of normalcy. Get all the latest updates in Dr. Ray's weekly video message.

UPDATE (12/4/20): Way back in 1898, a British diplomat named Joseph Chamberlain gave a speech in which he spoke the line: "I think you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times." Truer words could not be spoken of our lives here at the end of the year 2020. We have seen protests against horrible acts of police brutality, experienced an historic election season and dealt individually and collectively with a worldwide pandemic. These truly are interesting times. And through it all, the residents of Memphis and Shelby County - all of you - have overcome adversity in ways that will be remembered on the pages of history books forever. When the going got tough, you got going, and for that I'm so deeply thankful. As one shining example, Tuesday saw our sixth annual Operation Warm Hearts mobilize our community to give hats, gloves, coats and money to help ensure no student goes without warm clothing this winter. More than $40,000 in coats, clothing and monetary contributions were donated as a testament to how much we all love our children. I want to close this week with words of appreciation to our School Board, the best Board in the Nation - not only in my assessment, but also according to the Council of Urban Boards of Education. Earlier this week, the School Board gave me the greatest gift a board can bestow upon a superintendent - more time to get the work done on behalf of children and families. I look forward to leading through the remaining challenges of the pandemic and into the bright days that I know lie ahead for our district. Get all the latest updates in Dr. Ray's weekly video message.

UPDATE (11/20/20): With the Thanksgiving break only a few days away, I encourage all of us to pause and remember the things we have to be thankful for: A School Board that has given SELFLESSLY to ensure the safety and well-being of our community; Students who have RISEN to the greatest educational challenge of our lifetime; Teachers who have been AMAZING champions for their students during this time of virtual learning; Parents who have been HEROIC in supporting the work of schooling; Healthcare workers who have served TIRELESSLY since the beginning of the pandemic; And, for all of you who have served in ways too numerous to count. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. At this time of year, when our traditions tell us to travel and cook big meals, I know the temptation will be to gather with friends and family and celebrate. However, the number of new coronavirus cases is increasing every day, and being safe is more important now than ever before. Wear your masks, wash your hands and practice social distancing. Research shows that transmission of the virus is primarily airborne, so please take your celebrations outside and let them breathe in the fall air. We've come this far by faith, and there are miles yet to go as we face uncertain days ahead. Get all the latest updates in Dr. Ray's weekly video message.

UPDATE (11/13/20): Happy World Kindness Day! Celebrated every November 13, World Kindness Day is a global recognition of the importance of being kind to yourself, to one another and to the world. During these unprecedented times, I hope you take the opportunity to show at least one random act of kindness to uplift a friend, a family member or even a stranger. Remember - it’s nice to be nice! With Coronavirus cases increasing all around the country - and especially here in Shelby County - it’s hard not to be discouraged by how long we’ve been at this and how much longer we may have to go. But one thing we know for certain, we MUST be steadfast and persistent in showing COMPASSION and GRACE to ourselves and others. All of us can work to show kindness in the midst of adversity. Let us speak warmly to each other during these times of duress. Let us respond with more empathy toward one another. And let us ALL remember that we have so much to show GRATITUDE for as we enter this season of Thanksgiving. We continue to overcome EVERY obstacle in this virtual environment. We remain focused on the HEART work of education. And most of all, we realize that whatever the pundits and naysayers may put out there, this generation is NOT LOST. By our actions and by our kindness, we are speaking life to our precious children who will return safer and stronger to schools when the time and conditions are right. Get all the latest updates in Dr. Ray's weekly video message.

UPDATE (11/6/20): It’s November, which means we have officially transitioned into what we know as the season of GRATITUDE. As Shelby County Schools continues to navigate this pandemic, we are overcoming every obstacle TOGETHER. We realize that many of you are battling fears and balancing responsibilities at work and home. What keeps us all encouraged as a SCS family and 901 community is our ability to find ways to show gratitude. It’s been proven to show improvements in self-esteem, achieving goals and, most importantly, RESILIENCE. I’m sincerely thankful for the commitment of our principals, teachers, staff, students and families. You matter! In this season of gratitude and giving, I also want to share some incredible news as we kick off our sixth annual Operation Warm Hearts campaign. Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins announced a $20,000 Assists for Education donation to support our students through the Warm Hearts winter coat and clothing drive. We are so thankful for this generous contribution and partnership, and we’re looking forward to strong community support as we help spread warmth again this year. Get all the latest updates in Dr. Ray's weekly video message.

UPDATE (10/30/20): As we clear the final hurdles of the first quarter of virtual instruction, I want to commend principals, teachers, staff, students and families for staying the course. This is not a sprint, but indeed a MARATHON. As I visit schools weekly across the District with Board members, we are continually inspired by the sense of determination and focus from staff and students—a reflection of the strength of their community. This week, we celebrated Read for the Record Day! Although we’re virtual, we joined millions around the world in reading to raise awareness about the importance of early literacy and access to high-quality books. We must continue to commit to literacy! In case you missed it, the two largest employers in Memphis teamed up this week to host a FedEx hiring event at the Board of Education. In an effort to make it easier for our parents and guardians to gain access to career opportunities, especially during this economic downturn, we were able to provide help to 115 candidates with the job application process on the spot. As we prepare to turn back our clocks this weekend and cooler temperatures signal a change of season, I know that sports remain on the minds of many coaches and student-athletes. The District will be meeting with athletic directors and coaches to revisit winter and spring sports protocols and share guidance for physical conditioning. Like sports, navigating these unprecedented times takes us all working TOGETHER as a TEAM. Despite the many uncertainties of this pandemic, one thing that remains true and constant is the commitment of our community. Partnering with the Mid-South Food Bank, the Shelby County School Board hosted nine food pantries at various locations across the District. More than 300 families at each site walked away grateful for a two-week supply of nutritious food. This is what purposeful ACTION in our community looks like. Thank you, Shelby County, for always answering the call. Get all of the latest news and announcements in Dr. Ray's weekly video update.

UPDATE (10/23/20): This week, we discussed a proposed plan to return to in-person learning in January. Be assured, the safety of our students, staff and families continues to be our highest priority in every decision we make. We continue to follow the Health Department's guidelines, and we are confident in the steps we're taking to make our schools safe for learning. As cases surge during this fall and winter season, I want to assure you that the Board and my administration are keeping a watchful eye on the data and seeking guidance from infectious disease experts. Our gradual reopening plans are only a PROPOSAL as we remain FLEXIBLE in SAFELY returning to schools. As we share more information about our gradual reopening plans for in-person learning, we are considering options for winter and spring sports. We of course had to make a tough call to postpone fall athletics, and I recognize that it was an unpopular decision among some. But, as I’ve said all along, SAFETY is our TOP priority. Just this week, Shelby County Health Department data revealed that of 500 positive COVID-19 cases among students and school staff in the county, 83% were traced back to contact sports. Bottom line, we must consider the exposure for multi-generational families and the unknown long-term health impact of this virus. After all, family is the best TEAM we could ever have. Let’s continue to speak life during these uncertain times and uplift one another. Get all of the latest news and announcements in Dr. Ray's weekly video update.

UPDATE (10/16/20): After six incredible weeks of virtual learning, I hope you have enjoyed a bit of rest during Fall Break. It is essential during these unprecedented times to take care of ourselves and our families. Know that I am also so proud of the work that students, teachers, parents, and staff are doing to help keep our main thing the main thing — and our MAIN THING is TEACHING and LEARNING. When virtual classes resume next week, know that everyone will be better for having rested — at least a little. Even with COVID-19 cases surging in Shelby County to mid-summer levels, I want to remind you that my team, the Board, and I have been discussing a STRONGER RETURN to in-person learning since we shuttered schools last spring. We HAD, and HAVE, a FLEXIBLE plan for in-person learning and will honor the choices of our parents AND teachers. We will continue to follow science and return ONLY when it is safe to do so. I look forward to sharing an update soon. With the seasons changing and cooler temperatures signaling the arrival of fall, please be sure to get a flu shot and wear your face masks to help prevent the spread of disease —not only the coronavirus, but also the common cold and seasonal flu. Every day gets us a little closer to being out of this pandemic - let’s not let our guard down too soon because we NEED every one of us HEALTHY and STRONG to GET THE WORK DONE in 2020-21 and beyond! Get all of the latest news and announcements in Dr. Ray's weekly video update.

UPDATE (10/9/20): I want to begin this week's update by saying THANK YOU to our incredible school leaders as we celebrate National Principal Appreciation Month. Thank you for your dedication and being a guiding light during these trying times. This week, we also celebrated World Teacher’s Day. Forever a teacher, I understand that TEACHING is the most noble profession with a mission of educating the next generation. Thank you, SCS teachers, for your passion and resilience as you work to empower students across this great District. During uncertain times, the true test of leadership comes when tough decisions are demanded. I want to remind you that since the release of our Return Stronger S.A.F.E. Re-Entry Plan, the District has been discussing and reevaluating several metrics and strategies for reopening. Please know that no date has been communicated about our return to school buildings, but we are working hard with a return to in-person learning as our ultimate goal. While rubrics for reopening schools have become largely politicized and vary greatly in Tennessee and across the country, controlled spread is still defined by public health experts. In institutions and programs that push reopening, we see the outcome in sudden closures and cancellations. In a community already disproportionately impacted by the virus, decisions about returning to buildings must first be made in regard for the safety of teachers and students. Even then, a continued choice of whether or not to remain virtual or return in person must be offered. Efforts to force teachers back into buildings across the country are failing with little attention to the root cause – we are still in a PANDEMIC. We’ll continue exploring possibilities and options as we review data and socialize metrics with the Shelby County Health Department, and we look forward to sharing more information soon. Get all of the latest news and announcements in Dr. Ray's weekly video update.

UPDATE (10/2/20): It’s October, and as we reflect on this unprecedented year, we want to reiterate the facts: Shelby County Schools (with the advocacy of our Board) was the first to shutter schools - before the State of Emergency and before any Safer at Home order. This decisive and quick action potentially saved THOUSANDS of lives, including at-risk, aging teachers, and our vulnerable student population. By remaining closed and starting this school year ALL VIRTUAL, public health officials have gone ON RECORD to say that our District has played a critical role in minimizing the spread of the coronavirus in our community. Rushing to reopen a District our size is not safe while our county is still experiencing new triple-digit COVID-19 cases weekly. Reopening in the current conditions no doubt will lead to rolling school closures and disruptions to instruction. As we’ve said from the beginning, we will only return to in-person instruction if it is SAFE to do so. We are re-evaluating strategies by expanding upon our initial S.A.F.E. Re-Entry Plan, and our decisions will continue to be based on SCIENCE and heavily weighted by School Board input and community feedback. We acknowledge that virtual instruction isn’t perfect, but it’s NOT BROKEN. We’re marking achievement and claiming virtual victories every day as we continue to lean on science. To track virtual learning and engagement, SCS has developed a sophisticated data dashboard to measure learning and learning LOSS as we leverage our new digital devices for high-quality instruction, interventions and support. We are gathering more feedback from our Board and community as we make decisions in the best interest of children, and we remain absolutely committed to FLEXIBILITY for principals, teachers, staff and families. Get all of this week's news and announcements in Dr. Ray's weekly update video.

UPDATE (9/25/20): We've now completed four weeks of virtually learning, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished TOGETHER! As parents, students, teachers and staff, we acknowledge the challenges that many are facing, but I want to assure you we are here to support you every step of the way. We’re continuing to celebrate every #SCSVirtualVictory! But again, please understand claiming a VIRTUAL VICTORY doesn’t mean there have not been unique challenges. However, with these challenges come INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS. As we continue to work through this pandemic, I know many of us are still having trouble adjusting to this new way of life. I feel the profound absence of our learning routines in school buildings, and I know I’m not alone in longing to be back together in classrooms. However, we must make sure it is SAFE for everyone. Averaging more than a 170 new cases each day, we have to remain cautious. That said, we’ll continue relying on science and reevaluating several metrics and strategies with a return to in-person learning as our ultimate goal. Get all of this latest news and announcements in this week's video update.

UPDATE (9/18/20): We are now three weeks into virtual learning, and I can say with much excitement and relief, that we are beginning to hit our stride. Every day, I'm hearing more inspiring stories from our awesome educators and families. We knew this year would be unlike any other, and the challenges we're facing are not unexpected. But as we work hard to persevere and provide the solutions our students, families and teachers need, we have to pause and celebrate our victories along the way. You can search #SCSVirtualVictory to see more of the great things happening every day in our schools. This week, we had to make a tough call to postpone fall athletics until further notice. I recognize it was not a popular decision, but as I've said all along, our top priority is always safety. We will have updates soon about opportunities for our junior and senior student athletes to participate in combines and showcase events for colleges while sports are postponed. And if we are able to safely return to in-person this fall, we will indeed consider offering families an athletic option to return to play as well. While other districts large and small have dealt with major setbacks to start the year, the story of SCS has been one filled with progress and promise. No matter what obstacles we face or how many people want to count us out, I urge you all to stay focused and committed - just as you have shown every step of the way so far. Together, we will continue to overcome barriers, and we will be virtually victorious. Get all of the latest announcements in this week's video update.

UPDATE (9/11/20): We’ve wrapped up week two of virtual learning across Shelby County Schools, and we are claiming a VIRTUAL VICTORY. Teachers and students have been tossed into this new arena of learning, and they’re all learning how to do it BETTER as they go, day by day. Being a product of this great District, one thing I know for sure about this HEART work, Shelby County Schools teachers have a deep LOVE for teaching, and our students will overcome any obstacles they face along this learning journey. Of course, I’ve seen the petition to shorten the school day, and I want our community and parents to know that we understand the challenges of virtual engagement and keeping students focused, especially our young ones. We are committed to providing high quality instruction to all students, but even in a virtual setting, we must ensure State requirements are met. As a community, more than ever, now is the time for us to drive a passion for learning and motivate students to learn new skills and achieve with COURAGE. We value family input and continue to ask for grace and patience as we navigate through this new normal together. Get all of the latest District news in the latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (9/4/20): To say that I am pleased - and RELIEVED - by how our first week of school has gone would be an understatement. Although it hasn’t been perfect, it has been amazing to watch tens of thousands of students and teachers engaging in a process that has worked just like we planned. I’ve visited schools and heard from principals, teachers and support staff who are on the front lines of virtual instruction and innovation. I’ve dropped in on class lessons and seen the bright faces of our students who are eager to get back on a routine and engage with their dedicated teachers. It has been truly inspiring, and I know that more great days lie ahead for Shelby County Schools. In this week's update video, learn about new video lessons and learning packets, expanded meal service for students, device distribution for Pre-K students, ACT opportunities and our 3rd annual Necessity Drive for under-resourced families.

UPDATE (8/28/20): Monday, August 31, is an historic day for Shelby County Schools. Not only is it the first day of the 2020-21 school year, it is the beginning of a year unlike any the District has ever faced in its more than 153-year history. We’ve worked tirelessly to plan for the smoothest possible opening. However, as I've said many times, we all must show each other grace and support during these next few weeks, especially next Monday. Starting school virtually wasn’t what we hoped for, but it’s what we have to do in light of the pandemic. We will be monitoring how many students log onto their computers and how much time they spend in essential learning applications. We'll be tracking attendance and looking at data from our most vulnerable populations of students to make sure they are receiving the support they need. Power outages of course have the potential to impact student attendance, but I know schools will work with students to make up their work. Despite all of the challenges and unknowns that come with this school year, I assure you we have set the bar high, and we will know by using data how we are doing in reaching our goals. In this week's update video, get information on our back-to-school block party, childcare support, weekly video lessons, student meals, immunizations and much more.

UPDATE (8/21/20): Reimagining education during a pandemic has required us to dig deep. The needs of our students and families are astounding and, as we move into a fully virtual learning environment, the room for error is large. We don’t know what we don’t know, but what we do know is our mission and core values have not changed. Whether buildings are open or closed, all hearts, minds and hands are connected to the HEART work of intentionally uplifting our students. In the week ahead, we will distribute thousands of more devices, stream virtual orientation sessions District-wide and broadcast a live forum for families about supports for English learners and special education services. Plus, we have a new back-to-school website, an upcoming back-to-school block party, new technology trainings for parents and much more. Hear it all in Superintendent Ray’s weekly update video.

UPDATE (8/14/20): We’re just two weeks away from the start of a new school year that will be unlike any other. Take a second, and embrace this moment as we make HISTORY. This week, we announced universal bell times for schools to ensure consistency in support and scheduling. Daily learning for schools will take place 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., and iZone schools will operate from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Additionally, after receiving feedback from our families, we have added guidance to the student dress code for the virtual learning environment. Students will not be required to wear uniforms, but they will be expected to adhere to a virtual etiquette. As we inch closer to the first day of school, we understand the unique childcare challenges that parents face amid this pandemic, so we were thankful to share more than 100 community childcare options this week. It was another highly productive and fulfilling week, as thousands of students happily received their new tablets and laptops. Close to 20,000 families also tuned in for our live virtual learning demonstration. In the week ahead, we are hoping families across the District will join us for 901 Family Week, which will include a "Power Up Day" on August 20 to get students and families ready for virtual learning, and a special Family Forum on August 22 addressing special education and English learner supports. I believe the evidence is clear that back-to-school excitement for the new year has officially arrived, and we are energized and committed to helping our students, families, teachers and staff power up for an incredible year of learning. I am grateful for the important role every one of you plays in helping us get there! Get it all in Superintendent Ray's weekly update video.

UPDATE (8/7/20): This week, we’re making history. It’s a week that's been more than a year in the making. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Shelby County Schools had a BOLD vision to address academic equity and bridge the digital divide for students in Memphis. This week, that vision became a REALITY, as thousands of brand new devices were distributed to families across the city. When device deployment is all said and done, more than 95,000 new devices will be in the hands of our students. Though conditions around us may remain uncertain, I can say this with great certainty -- we are taking the right steps to successfully and safely begin our school year on August 31. Students may not walk through the front doors of our schools on day one, but we will open INNOVATIVE new doors to learning possibilities as teachers and students come together online for the start of virtual learning. It's a new day for education and opportunity in this school district, and we are proud to continue leading through this unprecedented moment with one goal in mind -- supporting our students, families and staff. In addition to device updates, we have news this week about fall athletics, a virtual family forum on special education and English language services, summer meal service and more. Get it all in Superintendent Ray's weekly update video.

UPDATE (7/31/20): Know that this week, it was a difficult decision to announce that our students would begin their school year virtually. Even as I share this message, the daily positive rate for the virus is 53%, meaning one of every two people tested will likely test positive. I implore everyone to wear a mask, limit your movement to necessary activity and stay healthy so we can safely return students to school. This has been another historic week for Shelby County Schools, as we announced plans to begin distribution of student devices on Monday, August 3. By equipping ALL of our students with digital devices this year, we will open up amazing new possibilities and truly change the landscape of how we educate students. Throughout this pandemic, the dominant theme has been support, highlighted by meals, instructional resources, social emotional hotlines and so much more. We want families to understand we're listening and committed to responding to their needs, which is why we were excited to share additional updates this week on special education services and childcare options for essential working families and staff. We'll be updating families very soon about virtual dress codes soon as well. Get all the latest information in Superintendent Ray's latest update video.

UPDATE (7/24/20): As the selection period for fall learning options comes to a close today, SCS remains committed to being flexible for the safety of our students and educators. We will continue to make decisions based on SCIENCE and not be influenced by politics as we work to return stronger. As we look ahead to next week, we're excited to announce plans for distributing digital devices to students. Device distribution will start August 3 for select middle and high schools and continue throughout the month for the rest of schools. We also have more parent technology trainings coming up next week and in early August to help families prepare for virtual learning, and we're extending our bulk meal distribution at 11 SCS school sites through mid-August as we combat hunger in Shelby County. Learn more in Superintendent Ray's latest weekly update video, and thank you all for joining us as CHANGE CHAMPIONS. We are 901!

UPDATE (7/17/20): This week, more than 20,000 people tuned into our Virtual Community Conversation about the S.A.F.E. Plan. We're encouraged everyday by the incredible engagement and support of our community as we work hard to return stronger. We also appreciate the feedback and questions coming in, and we're addressing as many as we can every week. We've extended the period for fall learning options to July 24, and we have many new parent and student FAQs on our S.A.F.E. Plan website this week to assist with those decisions. New employee FAQs will be coming next week. We're looking forward to sharing details very soon about the distribution of digital devices for all of our students. Plus, our student athletes will be returning to action next week as limited team conditioning resumes at many middle and high schools across the District. Saving the absolute best for last, there is no better way to close the week than with our Class of 2020 Virtual Graduation, which takes place tomorrow at 5 p.m. I hope you'll tune in live for what will be an unforgettable evening. All this and more in our latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (7/10/20): Nearly 20,000 families have selected learning options for the fall semester this week, and we're assisting many more every day who continue to express thanks for having choices this upcoming school year. We're doing our best to answer as many questions as we can for families and employees and updating our S.A.F.E. Plan website regularly so everyone has access to the latest information. With that in mind, we're preparing for a Virtual Community Conversation on Monday, July 13, to discuss the S.A.F.E. plan in greater detail and address more questions from our community. Rounding out the week of big news, we announced plans for the Class of 2020 Virtual Graduation, which will be held on Saturday, July 18. Superintendent Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (7/3/20): This week, we were able to give our Board and the public an in-depth view of the hard work that has been happening since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly four months ago. We were able to share many of the updates and recommendations coming from our S.A.F.E. planning committees and Re-Entry Task Force that will help ensure health, safety and continuous instruction when we reopen schools this fall. The full comprehensive S.A.F.E. plan is coming next week. We're most excited to let families know that we'll be providing options for the 2020-21 fall semester - a direct response to the overwhelming feedback we've heard in recent weeks. Parents will have an opportunity to begin choosing a learning option for their students Monday at 10 a.m., either fully in-school or fully virtual. We're also asking families and educators for more input on two potential 2020-21 calendar options, which allow for a later start to the year following the governor's extended state of emergency. All that, plus more parent technology trainings, thousands of elementary students getting ready to kick off our Virtual Summer Learning Academy and a major national award for the best School Board in the nation, in Superintendent Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (6/26/20): It's been an incredible week as we were able to connect with thousands of families and community members and provide important information about how we're progressing in our plans to reopen schools this fall. More than 50,000 people tuned into our listening sessions, and over 15,000 parents representing 25,000+ students have taken the re-entry survey. We'll be factoring all input into our final plans and look forward to presenting recommendations to our Board and the Department of Education very soon. Our Central Nutrition Center is back in business, and we're excited to begin expanding summer meal service for students beginning July 1. Plus, big partnership news with Amazon, an inspiring discussion on social justice by some impressive SCS student leaders and several SCS high schools recognized among the best in Tennessee by U.S. News! All this and more in Dr. Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (6/19/20): We are so thankful for the strong response to support our re-entry plans over the past week, as nearly 12,000 parents completed the School Re-Entry Survey. As we prepare to broadcast multiple re-entry listening sessions in the week ahead, we'll be looking to hear from even more families about what it will take to return stronger in the fall. The Re-Entry Task Force completed its fourth meeting this week, focusing on the return of SCS employees in July and supports for students with disabilities and English Learners. SCS made national headlines this week with the historic Board vote to approve the purchase of 95,000 digital devices to equip our students for successful 21st century learning opportunities beginning this fall. We've worked hard to answer parent questions about the device plan throughout the week, and they're now available at scsk12/org/accessforall. All that, plus a special student-driven discussion about social justice issues and our Summer Virtual Parent Institute in Dr. Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (6/12/20): The Re-Entry Task Force held its third meeting this week to address more important decisions for the reopening of schools. The group is preparing for a work session next week to begin drafting official re-entry recommendations for the District. Parent input is certainly vital to the re-entry process because our plans must address needs of the students and families we serve. Therefore, we launched a new school re-entry survey to collect the opinions of parents, and we'll be hosting a series of community listening sessions later this month. Our Athletics Task Force has been hard at work preparing for a safe return to play, beginning with our high schools. The group has established guiding principles in preparation for activities to resume this summer. All that, plus new parent training opportunities to support online learning at home, applications for the Virtual Summer Learning Academies, registration for the new school year and much more in Dr. Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (6/5/20): ​The first week of summer break is behind us, but a safe return to school in the fall remains our top priority moving forward. The District's Re-Entry Task Force held its second meeting to discuss key issues, like recovering lost instruction and the impact of social distancing on transportation and other school operations. We're preparing for a round of community listening sessions to collect more input from families, staff and community stakeholders on the reopening of schools. We also want the public to help us come back stronger and more effective by taking part in our 2020 District Confidence Survey. All this, plus graduation salutes, an expanded summer meal program and our 2020 Teachers and Principals of the Year, in Dr. Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (5/29/20): The District's Re-Entry Task Force met for the first time this week to discuss critical steps in the process to safely reopen schools in the fall. We'll be tracking weekly updates on our new S.A.F.E. page. Plus, June is almost here, and that means drive-thru graduation salutes are being scheduled at high schools across the District. Get all the latest info in this week's update video from Superintendent Ray.

UPDATE (5/22/20): The regular school year has come to a close, and we're so thankful for the commitment of our families and staff over these past couple of months. It hasn't been easy, but your support has been vital. To show our appreciation, we're holding a big virtual end of the year bash with some awesome entertainment and prizes. Plus, there were some major updates this week as we launched our Class of 2020 celebration website and announced upcoming community listening sessions to support the S.A.F.E. planning process for school re-entry in 2020-21. All this and more in Superintendent's latest weekly update.

UPDATE (5/18/20): Today,Superintendent announced the District's contingency planning process for developing a strategy to safely re-enter schools and offices for the 2020-21 school year. The development of best practices for every aspect of instruction and operation despite the rapidly developing nature of this pandemic is a historic undertaking. The District's S.A.F.E. (Strategic Action for Flexible Education) Planning Teamhas been meeting daily since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis to assess short-term and long-term plans for academics and operational support functions. This afternoon, and Superintendent Ray introduced members of the Re-Entry Task Force, who will help advise and support the District in specific areas that will be critical to the reopening of schools. Learn more about the S.A.F.E. planning process here.

UPDATE (5/15/20): As our Re-Entry Task Force continues to explore all options to safely resume student activities and reopen schools, some important processes are underway. Final grades are being calculated, and families will be receiving information about our summer online program for course and credit recovery next week. Plus, we have some answers to questions about athletics, exciting news about the launch of our new Class of 2020 website next week and a special invite to all SCS families for an end-of-year virtual party. All this and more in Superintendent Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (5/8/20): This week, we're happy to provide solutions to some long-awaited questions from students and families. Processes for receiving student refunds and picking up personal belongings at school begin next week. Plus, we have important updates on final grades and big news about a Re-Entry Task Force that will be exploring long-term strategies for reopening schools in the fall. All this, plus a whole lot of love for our awesome educators during Teacher Appreciation Week and much more, in Superintendent Ray's latest weekly update video.

UPDATE (5/1/20): It's been a week filled with major announcements and significant accomplishments. SCS rolled out plans to celebrate the Class of 2020 graduates beginning in May and culminating with traditional graduation ceremonies in July. Thousands of people tuned in for a special virtual event honoring our Valedictorians and Salutatorians. We also have long-awaited news on student fees and refunds, as well as final grades and summer intervention. Superintendent Ray's latest weekly update video has all this and more.

UPDATE (4/24/20): Learning continues across SCS, as families continue to take advantage of our expanding list of instructional resources online. Next week, due to high demand, we are making additional printed copies of the most recent comprehensive learning guides available for pickup. Report cards for quarter three will also be posted online Monday and available by email and pickup throughout the week. Plus, we will be honoring our 2020 valedictorians and salutatorians and preparing to share some important updates for our seniors who have patiently been awaiting news on graduation plans. Learn about all this and much more in the latest video update from Superintendent Ray.

UPDATE (4/17/20): School buildings may be closed, but the resilience of the 901 community keeps us motivated and working hard to serve our students and families. This week, we've ramped up support with an amazing new virtual learning platform from Discovery Education and multi-week learning guides for all grades. We've also launched of two new hotlines to promote self-care and offer help to students and families who may be experiencing a range of social emotional issues. SCS continues to be proactive and innovative as school districts across the nation try to address the unique communication challenges. Our newly launched Voice of SCS+ platform is making more quality content accessible in more ways than ever. Plus, important announcements are coming next week regarding quarter 3 grades, including opportunities for students to improve their grades. Watch Superintendent Ray's weekly update for all the latest information.

School Closed All Year

UPDATE (4/15/20): This afternoon, Governor Bill Lee announced that all Tennessee schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. Superintendent Ray shares the governor's concerns and caution to guard the health of students, teachers, and families during this pandemic. That said, there is still over a month left in the school year, and our focus remains on providing learning opportunities that meet the academic and social emotional needs of our students. Today, we released our “Roadmap to Continuous Learning", which outlines all the ways we have been working to deliver instruction. We encourage all families to keep students engaged using the new roadmap, as well as our learning guides and video lessons, new Discovery Education virtual learning platform and many other digital resources on our instructional resources website. We will offer more guidance and expectations to employees about working remotely, and we will be working diligently to finalize our long-term plans for the year so we can update students and families soon. Please continue to visit our website and social media pages often for updates, and contact our Parent Welcome Center Monday through Friday for questions and support by calling 416-5300.

Discovery Education

UPDATE (4/13/20): Today, we announced a major partnership with Discovery Education to make an amazing new virtual learning platform available to our students and teachers for free. Discovery Education Experience is packed with over 190,000 activities and resources for K-12 students, all based on core curriculum concepts and popular topics in Math, Science, Social Studies, English/Language Arts and Health. The site features everything students need to enhance at-home virtual learning, including fun videos, interactive activities and ready-to-use lessons. Students can access Discovery Education Experience through their clever account, which they use in school every day. We have instructions for logging in and more information about Discovery Education on our instructional website at

UPDATE (4/10/20): We've been amazed and so grateful for all of the students and families who are staying committed to learning at home. Over the past few weeks, more than 460,000 people have visited our instructional resource pages and over 30,000 families have received printed learning guides. This week, we are combining several weeks of lessons and activities into a single comprehensive learning guide. This will benefit our essential staff and families by eliminating the need to leave home every week and risk exposure. Additionally, we've a got a major announcement coming Monday regarding a new partnership with Discovery Education to make their amazing virtual learning platform available for all SCS students and teachers. Watch Superintendent Ray's weekly update for all the latest information. You can also view a roundup of this week's updates here.

UPDATE (4/4/20): March has been a long and difficult month, but we are proud to see progress being made every day despite the circumstances. In the latest COVID-19 Update, Dr. Ray discusses the process for finalizing Quarter 3 student grades and how we're expecting direction soon from the Tennessee Department of Education regarding long-term plans for the school year. Additionally, we've added a new social emotional learning resource page to our website with helpful videos, podcasts, self-care tips and information on how to get assistance for stress and mental health. We've also compiled a growing list of community resources for families, which includes internet access, meal services, employment opportunities, financial assistance and more.

UPDATE (3/27/20): These past couple of weeks have presented challenges we've never seen at Shelby County Schools or anywhere in our city. Through it all, we continue to see inspiring examples of resilience, empathy and understanding by our students, families and staff. We may not know how long this will last, and we may not know what will happen next. But, what we do know - no matter what - is that SCS is 901, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to keep supporting our community.

School and district closure until further notice

UPDATE (3/24/20): Following the Governor Bill Lee's request today for all Tennessee school districts to close through April 24, Superintendent Ray has announced that all SCS schools and district offices will remain closed until further notice. We understand this request is aimed to protect our community. Thankfully, we have plans in place to continue providing meals to students daily in partnership with the YMCA, and we are already expanding our instructional resources that are available for students while schools are closed. We will be providing further updates later this week and ongoing regarding services that will be available during the extended closure. We will of course continue to consult with our Board, as well as local health officials and local and state leaders, as we make decisions. Be assured, the health and safety of our students, staff and families will always be our top priority.

UPDATE (3/23/20): Today, Mayor Jim Strickland announced a "safer at home" order, which takes effect Tuesday, March 24, and addresses non-essential commuting and engagement. This does NOT affect the current student meal distribution plan. The Mayor has said publicly that ensuring students are fed during the current school closure is considered essential, and therefore we are happy to report that the YMCA will continue providing meals for students at all designated sites Monday-Friday while schools are closed.

UPDATE (3/22/20): Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support from local and state elected officials, as well as community organizations and businesses, thousands of students will be able to receive FREE meals every day while schools are closed. Beginning Monday, March 23, the YMCA will be taking over meal distribution at all sites previously designated for SCS meals. The YMCA is providing all of the food and coordinating distribution with its own staff members. The YMCA is a valued partner, and the District is extremely appreciative for this support in such a time of urgent need. As originally planned, meals will be available M-F while schools are closed (through April 3), 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., for all children 18 and under. The child must be present to receive a meal. Additionally, the Mid-South Food Bank is making meals available for students at all of its mobile food pantries in the Memphis area, and several businesses are providing FREE or discounted student meals. View all meal pickup sites and details here.

UPDATE (3/20/20): Today, the Shelby County Health Department confirmed that an employee in the SCS Nutrition Services Department tested positive for COVID-19. As a result of this news, we have no choice but to suspend all planned meal distribution for students indefinitely. Our intent has always been to ensure students continue to receive the meals they depend on in our schools during this closure, so this is extremely unfortunate. However, there are simply too many unknown factors about the spread of this virus to take any chances of putting more people at risk. We will continue working with the Health Department to assess the situation, but in the meantime we will be calling on City and County government and other community food distributors to help provide urgent support and food resources for our children during this school closure period. . Learning guides will still be available for pickup every Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., at all of the distribution sites while schools are closed.

UPDATE (3/18/20): Today, SCS launched a new website with a variety of instructional resources for students and families to access while schools are closed. In addition to online learning platforms that students use regularly in schools, the District will be posting weekly learning guides with grade-specific lessons and activities for English/Language Arts (ELA) and Math. New guides will be posted every week and align to the same standards and assignments that would be taking place in classes at this point in the school year. We understand all families may not have access to a computer or Internet service, so we will be making printed copies of the learning guides available every Monday and Tuesday, beginning March 23-24, at all of our meal distribution sites from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

UPDATE (3/17/20): Today, the District tripled the number of meal distribution sites that will be available for students while schools are closed. Beginning Monday, March 23, students under the age of 18 can receive a free meal M-F, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., at these 60+ sites across Shelby County. The child must be present to receive a meal. Staff will be taking all proper precautions to ensure safe food handling and minimize risk for all students and families who may pick up meals. View a complete list of locations here.

UPDATE (3/16/20): This evening, Superintendent Ray announced an extension of the current school and District closure until at least Monday, April 6. This comes after Governor Lee and Tennessee Department of Education shared guidance concerning school closures and a suggested closure extension until March 31. However, rather than have staff and students return mid-week, we are planning at this time for a return date of no earlier than Monday, April 6.Additionally, we are mindful of the new CDC recommendations to consider school closures for up to eight weeks. That said, our District leaders are acting cautiously and responsibly to mitigate all risks during the current health crisis, and will continue to evaluate all matters as we approach the planned April 6 return date.

UPDATE (3/15/20): Today, Superintendent Ray announced that all District administrative offices will be closed Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27th – the same period that all schools will be closed. Our top priority is to protect our staff and students, and this decision was made based on the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and the Shelby County Health Department to limit in-person contact during the COVID-19 outbreak. While some in-person work, such as cleaning, maintenance and security is still necessary, our aim is to decrease the likelihood of disease transmission with this strategy. The District is implementing remote work procedures; however, our Parent Welcome Center can still be reached by phone during regular business hours at (901) 416-5300. The Office of Student Records will also continue to process online requests for records, such as transcripts and diplomas. The Student Records office can be reached at (901) 416-5830. All other in-person and phone support will not be available during the closure. Be assured, we are committed to keeping families, staff and the public informed, and we will continue to provide timely updates whenever there are new developments. Be sure to visit our website often and follow SCS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates.

UPDATE (3/13/20): Shelby County Schools is committed to addressing food insecurity and ensuring that all students continue to receive meals while the District is closed. The District has developed a food distribution strategy that minimizes risk for students and families who may pick up meals. Meals will be provided at 20 sites across the county March 23-27 between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day. Meals will be served to children under the age of 18, and the child must be present to receive a meal. A number of community-based organizations are also making meals available while schools are closed. View a full list of SCS and community-based meal distribution sites here.

UPDATE (3/12/20): In a proactive step to ensure the safety of our students and staff, Superintendent Ray announced that all schools are closed March 13-27. Schools are scheduled to reopen on Monday, March 30. There have not been any risks to schools identified by the Health Department. However, due to national developments and rapidly changing conditions regarding the spread of COVID-19, Superintendent Ray, our School Board and District leadership believe this is the most responsible course of action at this time. During these two weeks, the District will be able to perform deep cleaning in all buildings, fully assess potential risks associated with individuals who may be traveling over the break and plan for a variety of contingencies that will better prepare us to support schools if conditions become more complicated in the future. Get more details in this letter sent to all families.

UPDATE (3/8/20): Earlier today, the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) confirmed the first case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Shelby County. While we all hoped this moment would not come, the District has been proactively preparing for this possibility, and we are implementing a precautionary response plan for all of our schools. It is important to listen to facts at this time and not respond to fear. The SCHD has advised that there is no immediate risk to the general public in Shelby County, and there is no expected risk to school-age children at this time. But now is the time to proactively prepare for the possibility of local community transmission of the virus. The health and safety of our students, their families and our staff members continues to be our highest priority. Please know there is no guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the SCHD or other health officials to close schools at this time. However, as we monitor the situation and continue to consult with our local health and safety officials, we are enhancing internal protocols and providing additional resources. Get complete details on the steps we are taking in this parent letter.