A New Normal, Options Approved For School Year
WATER VALLEY – The Water Valley School Board approved learning options for the 2020-21 school year that include distance learning for students who wish to learn from home or the traditional classroom setting. The approval came during Monday night’s school board meeting following a brief discussion about the guidelines and protection measures that will be implemented.
Superintendent Jerry Williams provided an overview of the measures that include minimizing interaction among students in different classes for the traditional classroom setting. Williams explained that students in Pre-K through second grade will remain with their teacher for the duration of the day. Students in grades third to sixth will remain in their homeroom class and teachers will rotate classes. Seventh and eighth grade classes will be staggered to reduce hallway interaction.
“Everybody is going to have to realize that this is not normal, but this is as normal as we can be right now,” Trustee Pierce Epes stressed during the discussion.
Williams said students who select distance learning will be allowed to check out computers from the school. Lessons will also be provided on USB jump drives that will be swapped out weekly for students to ensure students who do not have internet at home will be able to participate.
The policy also includes an agreement for parents to sign. Students will not be allowed to change learning options during the semester.
“This is what we are planning now, it could change depending on what goes on,” Williams added about the plan as the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve.
Parents will be required to sign the learning option agreement with a deadline set for July 24. School is scheduled to start on August 5.
The plan was approved in a 4-1 vote, with trustee Chris Terry casting the dissenting vote after he questioned a portion of the policy that restricts students who select the distance learning option from participating in extracurricular activities.
“Is that something that we can do, legal-wise, with the MHSAA (Mississippi High School Athletic Association)?” Terry asked about not allowing the students who choose distance learning to play sports or participate in other activities.
Williams answered that MHSAA had scheduled a webinar on Tuesday to provide information about the upcoming year.
“Here is my take on this, if they are going to be socially distanced during the day, what good is it for them to be socially distanced during the day for school and then go to athletic practice? I mean that isn’t logical,” Epes added.
“I know it isn’t logical, I just didn’t know if it was legal to do that. I just look at it like you are saying if you choose to stay safe and stay home, your kids can’t participate in sports,” Terry countered.
Williams noted that school officials will be able to better monitor who the students are in contact with if they are at school.
“Then you’re bringing in who they have been around out in the community back into our population,” Epes added about students who are not in the classroom each day if they participate in extracurricular events at the school.
“But you still don’t know where they go after they leave school,” Terry countered about students who are in the classroom each day.
“No, you don’t,” Epes agreed.
“If parents decide for the safety of their kids not to come to school, I don’t think they will let their kids participate in sports either,” Trustee Rodney Phillips added.
New Sanitation Equipment Will Be Installed
The superintendent also provided an overview of sanitation measures to protect students including the purchase of touch-less hand sanitizers, paper towel dispensers and faucets that are expected to be delivered this week. He also said face masks have been ordered and 200 face shields will be donated to the school.
A detailed list of cleaning measures was also presented by Williams at an earlier board meeting for sanitizing school buses, classrooms, cafeterias, technology labs and restrooms. The plan also addresses daily protocol for monitoring students as they arrive each morning.
Other business handled at the meeting included:
• Accepted $1,000 from an anonymous donor for art supplies
“They heard we started back the art program at the elementary school and wanted to donate to it,” Williams explained.
• Agreed to interview an applicant for school board attorney. Williams reported one attorney had applied for the position after the district advertised the position formerly held by Trent Howell.