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Poplarville students can eat free after USDA program extended

The Poplarville summer food service program has been extended, so all students in the district are able to receive free meals for the time being.

The USDA extended the summer food service program so students enrolled in the Poplarville School District can get free breakfast and lunch. The Board approved the extension at their meeting Monday, the same day the free meals became available to students.

According to the district’s website, funding will hopefully last through December, but may run out before then. The district will announce when the free meals will end.

Students will be able to eat for free whether or not they fill out a free and reduced lunch application. However, the district recommends parents still fill out applications, so that students who qualify for free or reduced lunch will continue to have access to them when funding for the extended program ends.

Poplarville Middle School Principal Heidi Dillon updated the school board on the middle school’s progress in the Additional Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (ATSI) program.

The school is in the program because the special education students at the school tested in the bottom five percent of school districts in the state in the 2018-2019 school year.

Students with disabilities took their first diagnostic test of the school year, said Dillon. The eighth grade students were the greatest number who tested on grade level in math, said Dillon.

Students doing in-person learning are being placed into 30 minutes of targeted tutoring during the school day. Students who were below grade level are doing targeted work two to three days of the week in an effort to get them on grade level and fill in gaps in their knowledge.

It is difficult to conduct targeted tutoring with virtual students, said Dillon, since they are not on campus. Those students are given individual instruction through iReady and teachers are making sure the students are completing the lessons assigned to them online.

The special education teachers meet every Wednesday to review student progress. Students who scored below 44 percent in the first nine weeks test will receive additional interventions, and then be retested to see if the intervention is working, said Dillon.

Board Secretary Shirline Magee asked if virtual learning is working well for the schools.

Superintendent Konya Miller said that it’s an opportunity the community wanted, but providing that option has created a lot of work for students and teachers. Even virtual students are required to have four hours of daily instruction. While the majority are doing well, some virtual students are struggling with attendance, said Miller. Students who have been successful with virtual learning are being given the opportunity to continue doing so in the second nine weeks.

Currently 330 of the district’s students are engaged in virtual learning and approximately half of them plan to come back to in-person learning for the second nine weeks, which begins Oct. 9. Miller said she believes that is a testament to the public’s trust in the district’s management of the spread of COVID-19.

In other business the Board:

—Approved an emergency equipment purchase for the high school cafeteria. A power surge at the high school resulted in $90,000 in equipment repairs and replacements, said Miller. Insurance covers the majority of the cost, said CFO Samantha Sandifer. The school will have a $1,000 deductible.

—Approved a contract with Holliday Construction, LLC for $14,474 to demolish the building at 1343 S. Main St.

—Approved advertising leases for 16th section lands.

—Approved updating policies due to new Title IX regulations from the Department of Education.

The next meeting will be Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. in the district office boardroom.