WINONA – The Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District Board of Trustees voted to change the district’s primary return to school plan from traditional, face-to-face instruction to a hybrid of face-to-face instruction and distance learning. The district is still offering an at-home, fully digital option for parents not comfortable sending their children to school.
In addition to the change in the primary instruction plan, the first day of school has been pushed back from Friday, August 7 to Monday, August 10, for teachers to have more time to prepare.
According to Superintendent Teresa Jackson, who recommended the new plan to the board at Tuesday’s meeting, the new schedule will reduce the number of students on each campus as the student population is divided in half, based on the first letter of the student’s last name, with each half reporting to school on alternating days, Monday and Wednesday and Tuesday and Thursday, and participating in distance learning during days scheduled at home. Fridays will be at-home/distance learning days for all students.
Mondays and Wednesdays will be for students whose last names begin with letters A-K to attend school for face-to-face instruction, while Tuesdays and Thursdays will be for students whose last names begin with letter L-Z.
Jackson said the hybrid plan does not require students to have computers and internet service in their home.
The hybrid plan will be in effect for the first nine weeks of school, with a plan to go to traditional face-to-face instruction as soon as possible. The district will continue to evaluate the plan weekly when the school year begins.
“We need to do this slowly and correctly so we can get back to traditional instruction as soon as possible,” Jackson said. “By having a soft start, we will be able to provide more individualized instruction to our students.”
Jackson said the decision to change from traditional, face-to-face instruction to the hybrid plan came after the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Mississippi Medical Association released a statement on Saturday, July 26 stating they have collaborated to advocate for delayed re-entry to schools, providing students an option for virtual learning, and mandatory masks for students and faculty.
In addition, The New York Times reported that Mississippi is one of 18 states to set a daily case record for new positive tests last week. The report stated that Mississippi is one of 18 states where positive cases of COVID-19 are rising the fastest, with last week’s average of 1,322 cases per day a 95 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier.
“[The new hybrid plan] will have us dealing with smaller numbers of students in the buildings each day, and that will be better on every front,” Jackson said. “We definitely think this is better for us, although the challenges are huge.”
Jackson said although students will only receive face-to-face instruction two days per week, the district plans to “pack everything into those two days.”
“We will also be educating students how not to spread the coronavirus and educating them on how to use the technology needed for the programs in case we do have to go home again and do distance learning,” Jackson said.
Jackson said 20 percent of parents have indicated they will not be sending their children for face-to-face instruction in any form. For those students, the district has an at-home learning plan, but a computer with internet service is required in the home for students to access instruction.
“The at-home plan will be difficult,” Jackson said. “Parents have to provide their own device, with students working alone at the computer five hours per day.”
Students will attend school by logging into the designated programs and completing all assignments and submitting work on time in both the hybrid and at-home learning options. Attendance will be taken for all students to achieve the required 180 days of school.
Jackson said she has not received much pushback about the days students will be distance learning from parents who work outside the home, however, Jackson said the district is doing what it thinks is best for the students and faculty.
“Although we realize childcare is a huge issues for families, the health and safety the health and safety of our kids and employees comes first,” Jackson said.
Jackson said Dr. Thomas Dodd has begun meeting with the state’s superintendents of education weekly as the start of school dawns, and he has been answering questions and addressing concerns of the individual districts.
“We are not healthcare providers, we are educators,” Jackson said. “We look at our healthcare leaders and the [Center for Disease Control] for guidelines. This is the best decision for our district at this time.”
For more information, Jackson directed parents to visit the school’s website at www.winonamontgomerycsd.com or the district’s Facebook page.
For more on the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District’s new return to school plan, see page 3.