Like so many school districts across the country who find themselves in the impossible situation of responding to an uncertain and rapidly evolving health crisis, we continue to rely on science to make decisions about the safe opening of our schools. Safety signage, spacing desks, more hand sanitizer and masks simply cannot make a school safe in a community that is experiencing a daily triple-digit increase of virus cases. As hard as it was to close schools in March, sending students and staff back to them this fall is even more complicated.
We are faced with conflicting priorities as leaders entrusted with the safety of 100,000 children and 15,000 employees because lives and futures are at stake. There are more than 18,000 cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County - a 9.3% positivity rate and growing. Science tells us that by September, our community will reach the same trajectory as New York City, and this figure does not account for the students returning to school.
Therefore, we will begin our school year FULLY VIRTUAL on August 31. Teachers will have options to teach remotely or in classrooms, but all students will learn virtually at home until further notice.
We take our responsibility to provide a meaningful and high-quality learning experience for every student very seriously, and we will deliver on this promise whether our students are in school or at home. The virtual start of school will not be anything like the final quarter of last year. Every student will be provided with a digital device, and students will have live interaction with their teachers and peers every day as they follow the routine of a regular school day. We will continue to provide meals for students, and accommodations will be provided to support our students who receive special education services.
We remain determined to return to school as soon as it is safe to do so, but until then, our teachers will be ready to provide high quality instruction every day beginning August 31. Even virtually, we will return stronger.