MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis charter school district Journey Community Schools is preparing for its fully virtual school year.

Dr. Nickalous Manning, executive director for Journey Community Schools, doesn’t shy away when asked how the school year will play out.

“It’s going to be a struggle at times. There’s going to be some learning on our part and some learning on family’s part,” Manning said.

But he firmly believes this year will be a time to grow.

“The work this year will not be just a placeholder or just getting by. We want to get ahead,” Manning said. “We honor the fact that there is a challenge but we embrace the opportunity.”

Four schools in Raleigh, Hickory Hill and Orange Mound make up the district formerly known as Aspire Public Schools.

Nearly 2,000 students will be taught online, and each child will be equipped with a computer. Based on need, about 20 to 25% of students will receive hotspots.

Manning believes this new way of learning will help close the digital divide. But his team has also planned ahead for possible bandwidth issues given the unprecedented times.

“We have synchronous learning or live learning we also have recorded lessons and other online tools for scholars to still get what they need and so if the challenge arises where that bandwidth is weak you can go back to that recorded lesson and still get what you need,” Manning said.

Online learning will not be the only resource.

“We are also distributing printed materials,” Manning said. “So your math workbook and so not only do you have that digital content you also have the ability to flip that page, that novel. The ability to work inside that work book we still think is a great value there.”

But Manning makes it clear that teaching a lesson plan from the computer is far from the only thing his team will do. Connecting to children is key.

“Our teachers and our teams will be making calls to families just to make sure we’re checking on them not only for the work that happens in school but also their social-emotional wellbeing,” Manning said.

Manning highlighted the need for community partners and groups to work together to support families during this new time.