Shelby County Health Department impressed by Collierville Schools

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 19, 2020 8:46 PM CT | Published: August 19, 2020 6:51 PM CT
<strong>Sycamore Elementary Principal Julie Reagan (right) shows Shelby County Health Department employees the school&rsquo;s plans to social distance during physical education class.</strong> (Abigail Warren/Daily Memphian)

Sycamore Elementary Principal Julie Reagan (right) shows Shelby County Health Department employees the school’s plans to social distance during physical education class. (Abigail Warren/Daily Memphian)

If the county Health Department graded for COVID-19 safety protocols, Sycamore Elementary and West Collierville Middle School would have done well on their first exam.

Health Department employees toured two of Collierville’s nine schools Wednesday as principals showed how they’ve adapted to teaching children in the COVID-19 era. Collierville’s schools were the first toured by Health Department officials, and they were excited to see the adjustments.

“I think (the district) is handling the space really good,” said Alexis Rodgers, a clerical specialist with Shelby County Health Department. “Y’all have the space to social distance.”

There’s additional space due to some students choosing the virtual academy, Collierville leaders mentioned. 

Collierville offers 5 days of in-person instruction for elementary students

All staff and students were learning the new routine on “Day 2 1/2,” according to Sycamore Principal Julie Reagan. In Collierville’s elementary schools, students may attend every day if they do not choose the all-virtual route. At Sycamore, about half of students are learning remotely.

“I like your masks,” Rodgers said as she waved to first-graders distantly lined up with their colorful array of facial coverings.

“They seemed to know what to do,” said Josephine Burke, who is also examining schools. 

Reagan showed officials how students are staying on the right side moving up and down the stairway among other safety protocols.

The Health Department arrived midday as some students ate lunch in their classroom safely social distanced while others picked up lunch from the cafeteria and safely returned to class. They also saw those in classrooms spread out the appropriate distance.

Several schools return to in-person learning

At West Collierville Middle School, students were learning games and health at school, but also were asked to practice at home what they learned and record it on a district-issued iPad for accountability.

Middle and high schools are on a hybrid schedule. Slightly more than 30% of the 1,300 WCMS students chose the virtual route, according to Principal Beth Robbins. The remainder attend school two days each week. For some students at WCMS, Wednesday was their first day.

Health Department employees saw band class. While students didn’t have their instruments yet, band director Susan Spain explained that students’ masks will have an opening so they can play their instruments. Additionally, their instruments will have coverings to help keep droplets from spreading through the air.

“I was impressed with the band. That was my first time seeing the coverings,” Rodgers said, noting it might put parents’ minds at ease.

Superintendent Dr. Gary Lilly and Meghan Seay, coordinated health supervisor, were pleased by the positive response after the district released multiple reopening plans due to demands of the Health Department and desires of the community.

“We are eager at Collierville Schools and welcome outside partners like the Shelby County Health Department to add industry expert strategies and protocols to ensure our students are as safe as possibly during this school year and beyond our COVID-19 response,” Seay said.

Rodgers said they could use Collierville as a model as they help other schools learn to adapt to the new normal.

“Each school already has their own system of what they have going on,” Rodgers said. “If we go and visit – and see how good y’all are doing with first-graders and middle-schoolers – and we go to a high school and their system isn’t as efficient we can give them ideas or implement (practices in Collierville).”

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do


Shelby County Health Department Collierville Schools Sycamore Elementary West Collierville Middle School
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


Want to comment on our stories? Or read the comments of others? Join the conversation by subscribing now. Only subscribers can view or add comments. Our commenting policy can be viewed here