Multiple Mississippi school districts making changes to start of year due to rise in cases

Multiple school districts are changing their plans for students to returning to school due to sky-rocketing COVID-19 cases.

Here is what Booneville School District had to say:

“Thank you for your support of the Booneville School District. Due to the guidance from Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the Mississippi State Health Officer, another calendar modification is required to begin school. The Booneville School District will move to an online schedule August 5th until Labor Day in pre-K through 12th grades.

A decision about the type of schedule after Labor Day will be made the week of August 24th. Accommodations will be made for those students without internet access, but the rigor and expectations will be present for those students as well. The decision was made due to the significant increase in COVID-19 cases in persons ages 0-18. Dr. Dobbs stated that the virtual option is by far the safest option to educate a student in the beginning of the school year. His prognosis is that the COVID-19 numbers will be worse in September and October if school returns as normal.

We are fortunate to be able to move to an online delivery method due to our district already having the devices to go one-on-one in pre-K through 12th grade. We presently have several employees exposed to the virus and more reports of employee exposures daily. It is impossible from an employee standpoint to start school as normal on August 5th. There are certain grades that would not be able to go on August 5th and 6th because of the number of employees being in quarantine protocol.

This decision is not a decision that was made without an enormous amount of consideration of all factors. I cannot, in good conscience, put 1,280 students in confined places during the day and then send them home to parents and grandparents even with our best effort to social distance and sanitize. Our goal is for students to have a normal school year as soon as possible.

This goal would not be accomplished if the school had a tradition start. Our district showed at the end of last year that we are committed to giving students the school experience they deserve.

Dr. Dobbs said that the more normal of a school year districts planned, the more likelihood of catastrophic consequences. That is a risk that I am not willing to take. This will be different from the 4th nine weeks from last year. Breakfast and lunch will be available. Teachers will be at the schools teaching and recording the course content. There will be special education support available as well. The libraries will be available to check out books by appointment. More details about the specificis of each part of the back to school plan will be released next week. Extra-curricular activities, such as band and athletics, are governed by the MHSAA and we will continue to abide by their safety protocols and guidance regarding competitions and games. We will continue to monitor the health and safety of our students while competing under the MHSAA’s purview.

I understand this will not be a popular decision with some. Our district’s success lies in passionate parental involvement. The decision was simply the best way to keep our students safe. Thank you for understanding in this matter. Todd English, Ed. D. Superintendent

West Point School district has also made similar decisions: “The West Point Consolidated School District Board of Trustees approved the Superintendent’s recommendation to delay the start of school until Monday, August 31st, 2020. The Superintendent’s request was made after consulting with the Clay County Emergency Management Agency. Factors related to the spike in COVID-19 numbers across Clay County and surrounding areas influenced this decision. Changing the date that school starts will make it necessary to adjust the school calendar. Once changes are confirmed with dates, we will share that information with you. On August 31st, all students will start school via virtual/distance learning. Students who chose traditional (face-to-face) option will transition back to school at a later date based on information obtained from EMA, local health officials and the Mississippi Department of Education. Staff will be notified on Monday, July 27th of changes to their schedules. Burnell McDonald Superintendent

Jon Ross Myers

Jon Ross Myers is the executive editor and publisher of the Mississippi News Network, Mississippi's largest digital only media company. He can be reached at editor@tippahnews.com

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