TUPELO For students, parents, teachers and school administrators, this week has been eerily similar to the 1993 film “Groundhog Day”: It’s life stuck in a loop.

Northeast Mississippi schools remained closed Wednesday and Thursday amid continued icy conditions. While things haven’t changed much from day to day during back-to-back winter storms, one thing has changed between the snow days of 2021 and those of yesteryear – learning hasn’t stopped simply because children aren’t physically present at school buildings.

Local schools are now equipped to educate students from a distance, no matter the situation as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It made all the difference in the world,” Lee County School District Superintendent Coke Magee said of pandemic preparations for distance learning. “We have a lot more students that understand how to access our online resources. Parents have been working with it. Teachers have been participating, creating lessons. It’s amazing what one year, or just under a year, has done for our ability to provide distance learning to our students.”

LCSD students received either virtual assignments or paper/pencil packets, which were put together last week after discussions between teachers and administrators, to complete this week. The district had hoped schools would close for only a couple of days, but has now announced it will be closed through at least Thursday.

Magee said the necessity of having to learn how to create those distance learning resources will serve the district well for a long time.

While distance learning won’t always be used constantly to deliver education to the masses, it’s perfect in certain circumstances like winter weather closures.

Tupelo Public School District Superintendent Dr. Rob Picou said the transition to virtual learning this week has been “nothing short of amazing” during a week when many of the district’s teachers, and even Picou himself, can’t get out of their driveways.

From implementing learning software like Canvas and i-Ready to ensuring children have the technology they need by purchasing a Chromebook for every student, the pandemic has helped prepare Tupelo Schools for winter weather closures and extended school closures. For the 2020-21 school year, the district even purchased two copies of each textbook – one for students to keep at home and one to use at school.

Picou said Tupelo’s teachers have two weeks of distance learning work prepared at all times for use during the pandemic if a school is forced to close because of COVID-19 quarantine protocol.

Tupelo Schools will remain closed on Thursday, but virtual participation is expected to remain high, as it was during the first few days of instruction.

Picou feels Tupelo’s teachers, support staff and principals worked together wonderfully to make the transition to virtual learning seamless. Picou also thanked the TPSD Board of Trustees for their decisions in recent months to purchase materials necessary to operate during school closures.

“Nobody wants to close schools, but in the event that you have to, you want to make sure you’re prepared,” Picou said.

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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