Itawamba County School District officials have approved a plan they believe will keep local students safe when they return to the classroom in fewer than three weeks.
On Tuesday, the school board approved the “Return to School Plan.” The plan calls for students and teachers to return to a mostly traditional school setting, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including in-person classes on Monday through Thursday. The official plan calls for students to take part in distance learning from home or a Wi-Fi hotspot on Fridays. Online assignments are expected to be completed by students that day, while teachers will use the time to prepare their lessons. This plan would designate Fridays to deep clean classrooms, bathrooms, buses, and other needed areas.
The school board published an initial draft of this plan to the school district’s website earlier this month. Changes to the plan’s original draft include requiring both bus drivers and students to wear masks while traveling. If a student fails to have a facial covering during the first two days of school, a mask will be supplied. After the first two days of school, any student who does not have a mask or similar facial covering will not be allowed to ride the bus.
Buses used multiple times a day, such as those transporting students from Fairview Attendance Center to Itawamba Attendance Center, will be sanitized before students load the bus for the secondary route. Special equipment, provided by funds through the CARES Act, will be used to do a more thorough job each Friday.
Superintendent Trae Wiygul told the board they are encouraging as many parents as possible to bring their children to school.
“Social distancing on the buses is nearly impossible, so we are requiring the mask for everyone’s safety and asking parents who can bring their children,” Wiygul said.
Students who are attending the traditional classes begin school on Aug. 7.
Students who elect to attend school via distance learning must physically attend school on Fridays from 8 to 11 a.m. to take proctored tests or complete proctored assignments. According to the guidelines, this will be a time for student/instructor interaction and no outside persons will be allowed into the schools. Students who utilize the distance learning model will be expected to meet the same academic requirements as traditional students.
School Board Attorney and Technology Coordinator Michele Floyd stressed to the board that parents of students who opt for distance learning need to understand that attendance will be taken for those classes just as in the normal classroom.
“These students will fall under the same truancy laws as any other students,” Floyd told the board.
School administrators are continuing to work out the details for distance learning hours and issues facing students, such access to the necessary technology and internet service.
“We must get a grasp on what we are doing so we can easily slide into virtual or distance learning across the board should the need arise,” Wiygul said.
Wiygul will meet with district principals on Friday to continue hashing out details.
“Although we have approved the plan, it’s subject to change as things change daily,” he said