Memphis parents want virtual school option after Westwood student dies

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Lawmakers in Tennessee have essentially gotten rid of e-learning as an emergency option for schools, with a few exceptions. But some parents in Memphis are calling for more action after learning that a 16-year-old student has died after contracting COVID-19.

It was a rough start to the morning on Tuesday as parents dropped off their children at Westwood High School after learning that a student died from COVID-19 over the weekend.

The child’s family identified him as “Zo” Tatum of the Azores, 16 years old. His mother told WREG he collapsed at school on August 13 and was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with COVID.

She said that despite being treated and released, his condition worsened and he later died at Lebonheur Children’s Hospital. His mother says he was vaccinated.

Tatum “Zo” from the Azores

“My condolences go out to the family of this child. It’s a difficult thing right now, ”said Alfred Flowers, a parent from Westwood High.

Le Bonheur doctors say they are treating 28 children with COVID. Eight of the patients are in intensive care and two are on ventilators.

“Why is the school always open? These kids shouldn’t be here, ”said Westwood High parent Kevia Moore.

According to the Shelby County School District, the Tennessee State Council has adopted new rules and criteria for school closures and distance learning.

Because of these new rules, the state says parents who want their children to continue receiving a significant portion of their distance education must enroll their students in a virtual school.

The Tennessee Department of Education says the only exception would be if Gov. Bill Lee declares a state of emergency and the Education Commissioner grants permission.

SCS has a virtual school serving grades 4 to 12, but parents we spoke to said they would like more virtual options, especially as cases continue to increase daily.

“I don’t like the virtual, but at this point, yes,” Moore said. “I mean, it’s not good for my little babies, but it’s the best thing they’ve done right now because opening those doors does nothing but put us in danger.”

Shelby County schools have said on their social media that they hear the concerns and understand the frustrations parents can have with distance learning options. However, they say they want parents to know they remain committed to putting the safety of all students and staff first.

SCS COVID-19 Dashboard

On Tuesday, SCS released a dashboard showing the updated number of students and staff diagnosed with COVID-19. You can access it here.


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Perry A. Thomasson