PSD outlines back to school plan
Poplarville School District’s Board of Trustees discussed plans to restart the school year in the fall at Monday’s regular Board meeting. The plan will allow students to choose either virtual or in person learning.
The first day of the fall semester has been pushed back by one day to Thursday, August 6. Fair Day, which was scheduled for September 25, will be a regular school day since the fair was canceled for this year.
The district is reducing the amount of instructional time in the school day by one hour to give more time for bus arrivals, cleaning and extended lunch periods to promote social distancing. School days will begin 30 minutes later than in past years and end 30 minutes earlier. Students are not allowed on campus before 7:45 a.m.
The district will be offering two options for the school year: a traditional schedule with face-to-face instruction or a virtual learning option, which will differ from last year’s offering. Students who choose virtual learning will need to have Internet access or the ability to travel to a location with Wi-Fi. Students who choose virtual learning will be required to commit to it for a full nine-week grading period.
Unlike the previous spring semester, students who choose virtual learning will be required to turn in assignments on time and for grades. Parents of virtual learners will have to sign up for an appointment with a school representative to learn about the responsibilities associated with that option.
Attendance incentives have been suspended and students, teachers or staff who feel sick or have a fever are encouraged to stay home.
Students will be required to take state exams, such as the third grade literacy test, this school year.
Students, staff and parents are being asked to prepare for intermittent closures during the school year and to prepare for the possibility of a quarantine situation. If a school, grade or the district as a whole has to transition to distance learning, the district will accommodate students without Internet access.
On the bus
Parents are being strongly encouraged to transport their children to school if they are able to, to reduce the number of students on the school buses.
Bus route schedules will be adjusted to match school start and end times. Buses will be sanitized at the end of each route and cameras will document the sanitation process.
Students are encouraged to wear a face mask or covering on the bus and drivers are required to wear a mask or shield. Hand sanitizer will be provided on the bus and students are encouraged to use it when boarding and exiting.
Students who live together will be asked to sit together, and as much as a possible students will sit one to a seat. The bus will have a seating chart to maintain social distancing.
In the classroom
Students are encouraged to wear face masks or coverings in the classroom when social distancing can’t happen or when they are walking around campus. Teachers and staff are required to wear a mask or face shield. PPE is being provided to teachers and staff. The school district has spent $175,000 on face shields, masks and sanitizing equipment.
Temperature checks will be done when students enter class and before staff members sign in to work. The classrooms will all have touchless thermometers. Parents are being asked to screen their children before sending them to school for COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea and diarrhea. District administrators are also asking parents not to give children a fever reducer then send the child to school, even though the child has a fever. Staff are also asked to screen themselves for these symptoms before heading to school.
Students will not be allowed to share school supplies or drink from the school water fountains. The water fountains are being retrofitted to fill water bottles and students are asked to bring their own water bottle to school.
Schedules might be changed to reduce class sizes. Teachers will be at school until 3:45 p.m. to devote an hour to virtual learners.
PE and music classes will be offered, but the classes will be focused on individual activities. Students will also get recess and breaks in small groups or in larger areas to allow for social distancing. No large indoor events or field trips will happen while COVID-19 protocols are in place.
If the schools are forced to go entirely virtual, physical activities will still be offered online, Superintendent Konya Miller said.
Restrooms will be cleaned multiple times in the day. Desks at the high school will be cleaned in between each class change. Students in grades K-8 will be asked to help sanitize their areas. Doors and windows will be left open as much as possible to provide more air flow.
School visitors must have an appointment and wear a face mask.
Breakfast and lunch will be served daily. Grab and Go meals will be served for students who choose the virtual learning option. Unlike in the spring, meal rates and charges will apply.
Cafeteria workers are required to wear gloves and masks. The schools are going to try to space students out in their cafeterias and some students will eat in their classrooms instead of in the cafeteria.
There will be extra time in between lunches to allow workers to clean.
The Board approved advertising for a new nurse, so that the school will have a school nurse at each campus before fall. Previously one nurse worked at both the middle and high school.
A school’s nurse will be the COVID-19 contact for that school. Students with symptoms will be sent to a quarantine room near the nurse’s office. If a student or one of their family members tests positive for COVID, parents are asked to call the school and request the nurse. The school nurse will then notify only the people who need to be notified, to protect the student’s privacy. Anyone with COVID will be required to complete a 14-day quarantine period and stay off of school property for those 14 days. MSDH will conduct contact tracing to determine if any other students or staff need to quarantine. The school will notify those individuals via email or phone call. The identity of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will remain confidential.
The school will provide virtual learning to any students who are required to quarantine and will accommodate those without Internet access.
Students will be provided with Chromebooks or tablets in class and students with virtual schedules can check out a device. There will be a $30 insurance fee for students who check out a device to use at home. Shared computers will be cleaned between each use.
All of the campuses will receive the proper technology to provide video lessons.
The district will be adding Internet access points at each campus. Community Internet access points will be added on an as-needed basis if there is a school closure.
The school will be offering both in-person and virtual workshops on Google Classroom for parents.
Social and Emotional Health
The district is working with Pine Belt Mental Health to add an additional social worker to help address any student’s mental health needs, Miller said. Pine Belt Mental Health provides mental health services at the school during the day.
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