PRC School Board approves amended reopening plan

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Pearl River County School District’s Board of Trustees approved an amended school reopening plan during Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

The district moved back the student start date by one week in order to allow teachers more time to get their classrooms in line with COVID-19 protocols, according to previous coverage.

Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said teachers and staff took full advantage of the extra preparation time to make sure the learning environments students return to are as safe as possible.

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“We’re reopening 30 to 35…classrooms and we had teachers moving to new classrooms, so that week was tremendous for us to take advantage of,” Lumpkin said.

Not only are the teachers preparing for in-person instruction, but they’re also responsible for supplying virtual teaching options as well.

The district offered students the choice to either take virtual classes, or in-person classes this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

Lumpkin said that of the 3,107 students who had registered with the district so far, 671 of them signed up for the virtual option.

However, the entirety of the district took part in distance learning Aug. 13 and Aug. 14 with all students required to complete assignments at home regarding hygiene, social distancing and COVID-19 facts.

The two days of virtual learning were meant to prepare students for what will be the first day of in-person classes for the students who chose that option, Aug. 17.

While discussing the start of school the board talked about approving an amended school reopening plan to include some recent changes made to the protocols.

One of the changes included a new mandate regarding the wearing of face coverings for students.

Previously the district had only strongly recommended students wear masks while on campus.

However, following Gov. Reeves statewide mask mandate order, the district altered the plan to be in line with the new policy.

Now staffers, teachers, students and visitors will be expected to wear a face covering while on any campus, except for kindergarteners where masks won’t be required.

The new face covering policy was worded so that any change Reeves makes to the mandate, the district will align with, whether the mandate is amended, extended or lifted.

There were also new quarantine protocols put in place in the case of a positive COVID-19 test.

Students will have to go through a 14-day quarantine period following a positive test, where as faculty will only have a 10-day quarantine period because they’ve been deemed essential personnel.

A cohort quarantine protocol was also put in place, which means that if any group, such as in a classroom, there were three students who tested positive for COVID-19 within a 14 consecutive day span, then the entire cohort would be sent home to quarantine.

The hope is that this will enable contact tracing to more accurately take place, and make it possible to only quarantine certain groups where COVID-19 cases are prevalent.

Lumpkin specified that a cohort could be a group from a specific bus, a sports team or a classroom.

The new policy will allow the district to take a more splintered approach to quarantining instead of having to shut the whole school down because of a positive test.

The board passed the plan and its new additions unanimously before a motion was made to move into closed session.