MSCS students return to class for new school year

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Class is back in session: Memphis-Shelby County Schools students headed back to school Monday morning.

Teachers across the county have been gearing up for the new school year, and parents have been preparing for the start of a new routine.

FOX13′s Back-to-School checklist for parents

Students at Belle Forest Community School were welcomed back with a big pep rally.

Parent Ashlar Ingram said, “You see all these people out here, they’re cheering them on, rooting them on. What does it feel like as a parent to see your child has that much support? It’s really amazing.”

As students made their way back to school, one familiar face was not there to greet them.

MSCS Superintendent Joris Ray is on administrative leave during an investigation into accusations of impropriety and alleged extramarital affairs with former staff members.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. John Barker and Dr. Angela Whitelaw are stepping in during his absence.

FOX13 asked if they’ve encountered any challenges so far.

Whitelaw said, “We’ve gained some extra responsibilities, but we’ve always been a very tight team behind the scenes.”

Michell McKissack, MSCS board chair, said of the interim superintendents: “It was just a natural fit. It wasn’t anything anyone had to think about. It was just continuing what we’ve always been doing.”

The district has struggled with academics and student test scores in recent years.

The MSCS administration said a focus on small student grouping is key to a turnaround.

“We have a class that’s called Algebra I Enhancement, and then we also have an academic support class in every high school,” one official said. “So we’re really focusing on students that are struggling.”

MORE: Dr. Joris Ray placed on paid administrative leave while investigation continues

Tennessee recently had a tax-free holiday weekend to help families shop for back-to-school items like clothing, backpacks, electronics, and more.

The state sales tax was waived, helping parents save on much-needed items for the start of the school year.

Tennessee’s grocery tax holiday is still going on through the end of August, helping parents save some money on lunches and after-school snacks.

MORE: MSCS calling on retired teachers to fill teaching vacancies

In July, FOX13 reported MSCS was looking to hire retired teachers to fill vacancies for the new academic year.

Under new state law, retired Tennessee teachers can return to the classroom without the risk of losing their retirement benefits.

The district said it hoped to place retirees in ‘hard-to-fill’ positions.

At the time, the district had 220 vacancies.

Prior to students heading back to school, the community hosted many events with resources to help them prepare, such as school supply giveaways and immunization clinics.

On Saturday, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) gave out 400 backpacks filled with supplies to MSCS students.

RELATED: Community advocates react to infidelity allegations against MSCS Superintendent Joris Ray