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TUPELO • The Lee County School District released its blueprint on Thursday afternoon for reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year.

The district’s 6,800 students will choose between enrolling in traditional or distance learning when school returns on Aug. 6.

With the traditional schedule, students will attend school five days a week with modifications to follow CDC guidelines and Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) recommendations. Each school has a plan in place for activity classes like art, physical education, recess and music that meets social distancing guidelines.

The school day will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.

Superintendent Coke Magee stressed the importance of face-to-face instruction for students, telling the Daily Journal that it can’t be replaced by a computer or paper and pencil packet.

“Kids need face-to-face instruction with highly trained, high quality teachers,” Magee said, and balancing that need with health and safety was the biggest challenge while planning for the 2020 school year.

Input from teachers, principals, physicians, other superintendents and consideration of other school reopening plans from across the country contributed to the blueprint.

Students opting to attend via distance learning will enroll for each nine week period, and instruction will be provided online through Google Classroom with the option of meeting with their teacher periodically using Google Meets and/or Zoom. There will be deadlines for logging in and completing assignments, and attendance will be taken each day regardless of which learning option a child is enrolled in.

An email address for each school site will be created to assist parents who have questions about distance learning.

If an individual school and/or the entire district is required to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak, students will receive instruction through virtual learning or printed packets.

Academics

Pacing guides will be modified to incorporate the previous year’s skills that were not taught due to coronavirus-related school closures.

The district intends to provide digital textbooks and workbooks when available and will make digital resources available to accompany texts. Students will be able to access those textbooks and learning apps via a program called ClassLink.

Class sizes will be reduced, students will sit in desks facing the same direction during classroom instruction and supplies will not be shared.

Across the district, each school cafeteria will serve breakfast and lunch using a plan developed by individual school sites with options like grab-and-go breakfast, delivery to classrooms or one class per day dine-in. Each school will share details with parents.

Water fountains will not be in service, and students will be encouraged to bring their own water bottle for individual use during the day.

Health and safety

Students and staff will be required to wear masks when physical distancing isn’t possible, including on buses, in common areas and entering or exiting the building.

Periodic temperature screenings of staff and students will occur at schools, but parents will be asked to check their child’s temperature each day before school. If the child has a temperature of 100.4 or higher, they must be kept home until fever free for 72 hours without fever-reducing medications.

An isolation room will be available for sick students awaiting pickup by parents.

High-touch surfaces in schools will be sanitized before the start of each day, and buses will be sanitized at least once per day. Both classrooms and buses will be equipped with additional cleaning and sanitizing supplies.

No large gatherings or events will be held where social distancing is not possible.

The district will provide instruction to students on proper hygiene to reduce virus spread, and signs will be posted in high-traffic areas to communicate how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, identify symptoms and use preventative measures.

The district stressed in the plan that due to the dynamic nature of the pandemic, all information in the blueprint is subject to change.

Lee County’s full reopening blueprint can be found here: http://www.leecountyschools.us/ media/355253/plan- for-reopening-school- converted.pdf

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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