CORINTH • When the Corinth School District reopens its doors on July 27, it will be the first district in Northeast Mississippi to return to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year.

The district will return with a traditional five day per week schedule with modifications to follow Mississippi State Department of Health, the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, CSD Superintendent Dr. Lee Childress said.

Parents were surveyed and teachers and administrators had input as the reopening plan was created.

“What we generally found was overwhelming amongst all of the stakeholders, they were interested in making an attempt to start back on the traditional schedule,” Childress said. “And I think that’s probably what you’re going to see a lot of Mississippi schools are going to start off trying to do.”

Corinth’s earlier than normal start date is the result of the district’s decision to operate on a modified school calendar which begins during the last week of July and incorporates a three-week break at the end of September. It includes the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks along with a two-week break in mid-March.

As schools reopen, Childress said the district is “going to do everything we can to get it right” – not just because they’ll be one of the first to reopen, but simply in terms of ensuring the safety, health and well-being of its children and staff. While there will be bumps in the road, Childress hopes other districts can learn from CSD.

One change Corinth is implementing to help younger students socially and emotionally is grouping children in kindergarten through sixth grade with the same classmates they had during the 2019-20 school year “with a few minor modifications,” according to Childress.

The goal is to make those students feel more comfortable as they return. They won’t have to make a new set of friends while adjusting to a plethora of other changes, and their teacher from the previous year can visit the classroom to try and attain some level of closure that was lost when schools closed suddenly in the spring.

For those who aren’t comfortable returning to the traditional schedule, parents will have the option to enroll their children in a virtual learning model where students will be required to sign in, participate in learning and complete daily assignments to be counted present.

Students choosing the virtual option must notify the school by July 17. After that, students may only enter or exit the virtual model at the end of a nine-week period. Childress said he expects somewhere between 5 and 10% of students in the district of 2,700 to start the year with virtual learning.

The current grading policy in the CSD Student Handbook will apply to both the traditional and virtual models, and no changes will be made to the policy should the district convert to a hybrid or totally virtual model during the school year.

Corinth Schools are well prepared for virtual learning in the event that school buildings were to shut down this fall, Childress said.

The district has one-to-one devices for students – children enrolled in Pre-K through second grade have iPads and in third through 12th grade, they each have a MacBook Air.

“We’re fortunate that 10 years ago the district made a decision to provide everyone with a device,” Childress said. “Never did we believe that the device would be as important as it was this past year and potentially could be this year.”

Corinth has also invested in a learning management system, Canvas, which was previously used for grades six through 12, but will now be used for Pre-K through 12.

Two cloth masks will be provided for each student, and they will be allowed to take the masks home due to masking requirements on school buses. Masks and face shields will also be provided for staff members.

For Pre-K through third-grade students, masks will not be required inside the classroom where appropriate social distancing can be maintained, but will be required in common areas and while moving about the classroom. For students in fourth through 12th grade, masks will be required at all times when social distancing guidelines cannot be followed. The high school has reduced the amount of elective classes it originally planned to offer to allow for smaller class sizes for core subject classes like English, science, history and math.

The district has partnered with Magnolia Regional Health Center to develop educational materials that will be used to teach students about the use of face coverings.

Childress said that if a parent chooses for their child to wear a mask throughout the entire day, that will be allowed.

Students and staff will be screened daily with thermal scanners or will have their temperature taken with a no-touch thermometer as they enter schools.

Staff members will either verbally or via a paper form be asked to answer the following questions each day: Have you had a fever of 100.4°F or greater in the last two days? Have you had a cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat or loss of taste or smell? Have you been in contact with a person known to be infected with COVID-19 within the previous 14 days?

Parents will be asked to screen their children each day based on the same questions. Any student with a temperature of 100.4°F or greater will be sent home until they are fever-free for 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

Christy Miller, a second-grade teacher at Corinth Elementary School who has worked as an educator for more than two decades, spent time on Tuesday morning preparing her classroom for students’ return in less than two weeks.

Three desks were removed from her classroom along with a large table, allowing her to spread out the 21 desks inside. She has organized and numbered baskets filled with supplies like glue and crayons, which will be provided by the district for each student. They’ll also have their own textbooks.

“After teaching for 22 years, you just kind of roll with the punches,” Miller said. “It’s just another year. We’ve got to figure out how to maneuver this new normal.”

She’s excited and has heard from parents of last year’s students who say their children are eager to get back to school.

“We’ve been out a long time,” Miller said. “They’re ready to go back and I’m ready to come back.”

Corinth School District's full reopening plan can found here: https://www.corinth.k12.ms.us/apps/news/article/1254933

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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