Some Collierville parents, students not pleased with new back-to-school plan

Parents and students holding signs of protest stand in front of Collierville High School on Monday to show their displeasure with the district's new back-to-school plan. The revised plan does not include the option for students to physically attend class five days a week. Photos by Ruth Goodman

A group of Collierville parents and students showed up at Collierville High School on Monday morning to protest the school district’s new “Pathway to Reopening and Recovery” plan. 

The district’s initial back-to-school plan was made public on July 15 and included an option for five days on in-class learning.

However, a revised plan was released on July 24. It includes a hybrid attendance model and a “Virtual Academy.”

The option for students to physically attend a classroom every day was eliminated. 

Where the original plan borrowed primarily from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in an effort to accommodate students with a traditional learning option, the new plan was designed with guidance from the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD). 

Superintendent Dr. Gary Lilly said the original plan was based on the AAP, which “strongly advocated that all policy considerations start with the goal of having students physically present in school.”

“This also aligned to the majority of feedback that we received from parents,” he said.

Lilly said that rising numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout the county forced the SCHD to take exception to the AAP’s guidelines. 

“As much as we want students to return, our first obligation is to keep them, our faculty and staff, and your families as safe and healthy as possible,” he said. “To that end, we revised our plan to incorporate a hybrid attendance model in all grades, which will allow us to provide greater distance among students by having a smaller cohort in each building.” 

The new plan also expands the use of facial coverings to all grades.

Collierville Schools plan to open on Aug. 17.

The hybrid model will offer a “two-day rotation blended learning.” Students will rotate and receive in-person classroom instruction twice a week and remote learning three days a week.

Fridays will be remote learning days for all students with the exception of pre-kindergarten and resource children. 

The Virtual Academy will offer “an entire digital learning option from the comfort of home.” 

Each student will have access to coursework through an online platform, managed by the district.

Learning will require synchronous (students on a live class lesson at the same time with their instructor) and asynchronous (students working at their own pace) settings. 

Families that choose the virtual option must designate a “learning coach” who will be responsible for the student’s participation each day.

They must be present with students in grades K-8 for a minimum of 4-6 hours a day. 

Students not enrolled in the Virtual Academy will automatically be enrolled in the hybrid attendance model. 

Families who desire to assign their children to the Virtual Academy must notify the district by Aug. 2.