Suburban schools release reopening plans

By , Daily Memphian; , Special to The Daily Memphian Updated: July 16, 2020 2:56 PM CT | Published: July 14, 2020 4:00 AM CT

The six suburban school districts in Shelby County have now rolled out their back-to-school plans. All of them have some virtual learning elements and the option for parents to go all virtual if they are concerned about their children returning to the classroom. 

The school districts in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville and Lakeland released plans on Wednesday, July 15. 

Public school systems in Shelby County are required to submit plans to the Shelby County Health Department and Tennessee Board of Education for approval.

The state board has said students must have 180 days of “quality instruction” for 6 1/2 hours each day, even if it’s via remote learning platforms.

COVID or not, Tennessee expects 180 days of ‘quality instruction’ for students next year

Over the summer, suburban districts have said school could be in-person, remote or some hybrid of the two forms. They also noted they would follow guidance of the Health Department.

All plans are subject to change at the discretion of local and state health officials.

“Local decisions are going to be crucial to the success of the school districts,” Gov. Bill Lee said at a July 14 press conference.

Lee noted he wants as many students as possible to attend school in-person.


In Arlington, students in K-8 will return at 100% capacity five days per week on Aug. 10, while those in grades 9-12 will return at or near 50% capacity using a hybrid (mixed in-person and virtual) learning model.

The district will offer 100% at-home learning with Arlington Online, but families who opt in must commit to it for the entire fall semester.

New Arlington Community Schools Superintendent Jeff Mayo is asking parents, students, faculty and staff for patience and understanding as the district works to reopen schools.

“It’s sometimes easy to forget that this has never been done before,” Mayo said in reopening materials. “Right now, education systems and teachers are the pioneers they never asked or expected to be, but we’ll approach this task with tenacity and a focus on doing what’s best for kids.”

The district has worked closely with the Shelby County Health Department and other municipal school districts the past few months to come with alternatives that work for all families.

Classrooms in grades 4-8 will be capped to adhere to social distancing standards. Student groups will switch between face-to-face instruction in the classroom and remote learning in a virtual hub, such as in the gym, cafeteria or large venue.

Unlike the district’s elementary and middle schools, there is no viable method for Arlington High School (with 2,100+ students) to return at 100% capacity while following the required health guidelines. 

A hybrid model will be used at AHS that includes students attending in-person on Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday (depending on the first letter of their last name), while learning remotely on the days they are not physically at school. All students will learn remotely on Mondays.

  • Average classrooms will be limited to 20 students or within that range depending on classroom square footage. No assemblies, clubs, or field trips will be allowed until further notice.
  • School lunches for most grade levels will be consumed in classrooms.
  • The district will supply each student with one cloth face mask and there will be disposable masks available while supplies last. Students are encouraged to bring their own masks since they will be required each day.
  • All classrooms and common areas will have hand sanitizing stations installed. Communal water fountains will be disabled, except for those with water bottle fillers. Students are encouraged to bring fillable water bottles.
  • Family members and visitors will not be allowed inside school buildings, including on the first day of school, with the exception of kindergarteners during the first staggered week.
  • Isolation rooms will be established to hold students and staff who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and licensed nurses with experience in a hospital setting will determine, based on medical guidelines, who will be placed in isolation rooms.

ACS will hire a safety compliance assistant for each school to ensure all health measures are being followed. Buildings will be thoroughly cleaned each day by sanitation crews and inspected by the safety assistants. 


Bartlett City Schools will also offer families the option of in-person instruction or allow parents to choose 100% virtual learning for the first nine weeks of school, from Aug. 10 to Oct. 9.

Parents must declare their choice by July 24 via PowerSchool.

The decision to go to a hybrid schedule for students in grades 9-12 will be contingent on the number of families that enroll in the 100% virtual school option for the first nine weeks.

“We have worked closely with our local public health officials and other districts to develop a plan that balances health and safety with our students' educational needs,” said BCS Superintendent Dr. David Stephens. “There is no plan that is going to be perfect, and we are asking our community to work with us as we navigate these unprecedented times. The local impact of the pandemic remains fluid, and we anticipate changes to our plan as new information becomes available.”

Students at Bartlett High and the Bartlett 9th Grade Academy will be separated into two groups that will attend school on a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Friday will be dedicated to remote learning to allow teachers to work with students who need additional assistance.

If enrollment in the 100% virtual component is high enough that the district could safely bring all other students back on campus, the district will transition to traditional classes for all high school students Monday-Friday.

Students at BCS elementary schools will be assigned to classes the same as in previous years, while middle schools could use extra spaces such as gyms or science labs to follow social distancing guidelines.

To help limit the number of students on buses to allow for social distancing, parents are encouraged to transport their kids to school.

Face masks must be worn by students and staff while in common areas like hallways, lobbies, libraries and break rooms, and masks are strongly encouraged inside the classroom and in places where social distancing is limited.


Collierville Schools will start Aug. 17, and parents may choose between remote or in-person learning for students in all grades.

The start date is one week later than previously planned and announced.

“It’s vital that when we open our doors to our community, we are extensively prepared from start-to-finish,” Superintendent Gary Lilly said in a release. “Pushing back our district start date will allow our administration to work with staff in all areas regarding the recovery, reopening protocols and procedures for school year 2020- 21. We need to ensure that we have provided the appropriate amount of training to staff and put the necessary safeguard mechanisms in place for day-to-day operations. It was the right decision for our district.”

Traditional learning will include:

  • Students will attend five days per week.
  • Safety measures are in place in all schools.
  • Remote learning is still a contingency plan if needed. All students will be issued a device by the district.

Parents may also opt-in to Collierville’s Virtual Academy:

  • Classes begin Aug. 17.
  • Families must designate a “learning coach” to ensure the student completes assigned work.
  • K-8 learning coaches should be present with children between four and six hours per day.
  • Families who choose the virtual option are asked to commit to the entire year. However, they may switch to in-person learning in January after meeting with an administrator and school counselor.
  • Those who choose virtual learning must notify Collierville Schools by July 29.


In Germantown, the first day of school is Thursday, Aug. 6. In a Board of Education meeting July 14, the district presented a plan which includes in-person and virtual components.

Students in kindergarten through 6th grade will have supervised learning at schools five days per week. Principals will release plans for specific schools by email.

In grades 7-12, students will attend in a hybrid model:

  • Students will attend either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday based on last names. 
  • Fridays are planned to be virtual, but students with disabilities and those who need intervention may receive it Friday.
  • Virtual days are required.

“This is a moving target,” Superintendent Jason Manuel said. “This is a challenge for all school districts across the state, across the country. We are dealing with something and trying to be the best in an environment we have never experienced before.” 

Masks will be required at arrival and dismissal and when social distancing is difficult to achieve. All visitors to schools must wear a mask, but visitors will be highly restricted.

Staff will have daily screenings, and cleaning and sanitizing measures have been enhanced.

Lunch will be in classrooms, and the district is looking for ways to have socially distanced recess.

Parents may apply for a total virtual option if they still have concerns. Manuel said they will be granted based on staffing, similar to the transfer application process.

At middle and high school levels, families will be asked to commit for the entire semester or the end of nine weeks. Staff is still determining the time.


School will start Aug. 10 for students with the exception of kindergarten and pre-K, which will start with a staggered schedule Aug. 10.

Lakeland will provide traditional learning at both its schools on its normal schedule:

  • Lakeland Elementary: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Lakeland Preparatory: 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
  • Parents are asked to provide their own transportation if possible to help with social distancing on buses.
  • Non-essential visitors will not be allowed beyond the reception area.
  • Parents are asked to check children’s temperatures before school. Children with temperatures above 100.4 degrees should remain at home.
  • Enhanced disinfecting and sanitizing measures are in place.

Parents are allowed to opt-in to virtual learning if they do not feel comfortable sending their student to school:

  • Students will have required independent work along with remote instruction from Lakeland Schools System staff.
  • Remote learning will mirror a typical school day.
  • Those who opt-in to remote learning are asked to commit through the first semester.


In Millington, which also begins classes Aug. 10, parents may choose a hybrid or virtual plan.

Under the hybrid plan:

  • Pre-K through 2nd grade will attend school Monday through Thursday.
  • Students in grades 3 through 12 will attend school two days per week. Those with last names beginning in A-J will attend Monday and Wednesday. Students with last names beginning with K-Z will attend Tuesday and Thursday.
  • On Friday and days students do not attend in-person, they will do virtual school.
  • Functional skills and special education pre-K will attend in-person five days per week.
  • Students who receive special education services for resource or co-teach attend school in person Monday through Thursday.

Millington recognizes some parents do not feel comfortable with the health climate. They may opt-in to an all-virtual plan but must commit to the whole semester. Students will attend online learning five days per week. The district will provide a computer and resources for those who need them.

“The bottom line is we are going to do what is safe and healthy for our kids and teachers,” Millington Superintendent Bo Griffin said.

If the Health Department allows schools to reopen, Millington will return to five days per week in-person learning. Griffin hopes school may return traditionally by January.

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


Arlington Bartlett Collierville Germantown Lakeland millington Arlington Community Schools Bartlett City Schools Collierville Schools Germantown Municipal School District Lakeland School System Millington Schools
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.

Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian with more than 20 years of professional writing and editorial experience, working most recently with The Daily News and High Ground News.


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