WATER VALLEY – The Water Valley School Board of Trustees approved a request from Superintendent Jerry Williams to push back the start of the school year for students until August 10. Williams made the request at Monday night’s school board meeting to allow more time for training for teachers, who will report for duty on August 3.
Students were initially scheduled to start school on August 5 and the delay will provide a full week for teachers and faculty to prepare for the start of an unprecedented school year that will include the implementation of detailed plans to help minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19. Last week Williams released the “Return to Learn 2020-21” school plan that lists new protocols that range from cleaning requirements to checking the temperature of students, teachers and visitors each day.
The plan also includes mask requirements for students and teachers and Williams provided a brief overview of the policy during the meeting.
“When students are in the classroom, we are going to distance as much as we can and not require them to wear masks,” the superintendent explained. Students at the elementary school will be required to wear a mask when outside of their classroom and social distancing can’t be practiced.
“If one group gets within six feet of another group walking down the hallway, they are going to have masks on,” Williams cited as an example.
At the high school students will be required to wear a mask during class changes and when social distancing can’t be practiced.
Teachers will be required to wear a mask or face shield when they are within six feet of a student or other faculty members.
“That is how it stands now,” the superintendent added, a disclaimer he often shares as plans can abruptly change in the evolving pandemic environment.
Williams also said masks will be provided for students and teachers.
“I have ordered three-ply masks that has Water Valley Blue Devils (logo) on it. Something really catchy, especially for the younger kids who will probably want to wear it,” the superintendent explained. The delivery date for the washable masks is August 21 and the district will also provide two medical-grade masks at the start of the school year.
The “Return To Learn” school plan also provides two learning options for students, the traditional classroom setting and distance/virtual learning. During Monday night’s meeting, Water Valley High School Principal Drew Pitcock reported almost 80 percent of students in grades seventh through 12th have already registered and 43 have opted for distance learning.
Davidson Elementary School Principal Trevor Hampton also noted that only a small portion of students at his school have opted for distance learning.
The deadline for students to register for distance/virtual learning is Friday, July 24. Students will not be allowed to change from one option to the other between semesters.