Public and private schools in Montgomery and Carroll counties are closed this week due to the coronavirus pandemic. When classes will resume will be assessed on a weekly basis, as recommended by the state department and the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools.
According to Headmaster Jimmy Pittman, the Winona Christian School board of directors was meeting Wednesday night to come up with a plan for the school and its students. “We are meeting to put a plan in place for our students,” Pittman said. “We will make a decision on Friday on [next week’s classes].”
Last Saturday, the Mid-South Association for Independent Schools recommended that its schools, which includes Winona Christian, would be closed this week.
“Based on the latest developments of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, it is the recommendation of the MAIS that schools close beginning Monday, March 16 for one week. Beginning Monday, March 23, the MAIS will utilize a week-to-week approach when considering additional school closers. Beginning Monday, March 16, all MAIS activities and athletic events will be canceled and reconsidered on a week-to-week basis. The MAIS will re-evaluate this fluid situation with other states in our region. Waivers will be granted to schools taking this course of action.”
The Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District Board of Trustees met Tuesday night for its monthly meeting, with some members in attendance and others on telephone. According to Dr. Teresa Jackson, superintendent of education, the district leadership is working on two different plans – one for students to come back to school this school year and one for students not to return this school year.
“We are definitely in unchartered territory,” Jackson said.
Since Monday, the district has canceled all scheduled field trips, and all buildings, including the weight room, gym, and track, are closed to teachers and students.
“We are deep cleaning the buildings,” Jackson said. “They are working on [Winona Elementary School] now and then will move on to the high school. I approved the order of $5,000 worth of cleaning supplies in preparation to return to school.”
Jackson said the future is uncertain for this school year.
“It is possible that we may not return this year,” Jackson said. “No one has given us any indication that we will be open in the next three weeks.”
In fact, State Superintendent Carey Wright is calling for state testing requirements to be cancelled for the 2019-20 school year. Some school districts have already called off classes next week as well, according to news reports.
Jackson told the board that she and the district’s leadership team are working to find ways to educate students remotely, but Governor Tate Reeves’ order to offer online instruction isn’t feasible for a rural school district like Winona-Montgomery.
“The governor has asked us to go online,” Jackson said. “But most of our students do not have technology or internet service. Our teachers aren’t equipped to do remote instruction because they have had no training.”
Jackson did praise her teachers for already providing educational resources to parents to help keep students engaged during the closure. Jackson said she plans to put some educational resources on the district’s website as well.
“There is a lot more to this than making packets,” Jackson said.
Jackson said if classes do not return this school year, students will receive the grades that have currently to determine if they move forward.
“There is going to be some catch up for them moving into the next grade,” said Matt Surrell, board president.
Jackson responded, “We are going to have to have some direction at the state level.”
Board member Cheryl Small said, “Unfortunately, some of our children do not have instruction or discipline at home. [Where we are educationally] may be it for them. That is on my heart.”