School closures continue
Schools in Mississippi will be closed until April 17 in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 after an executive order was issued Thursday by Governor Tate Reeves. School districts will still be providing food and educational resources for their students during the closure.
Teachers will still be paid their annual salary on time, regardless of what decisions school districts make about how to ensure students are able to continue learning, said Reeves.
The Mississippi State Board of Education affirmed the order in a meeting held Thursday and approved allowing school districts to operate for less than 180 days as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The SBE also approved suspending all state and federal assessments required for the 2019-2020 school year and will submit a waiver request for exemption from federal requirements related to assessments to the U.S. Department of Education. The emergency declaration gave the SBE the authority to suspend statewide assessments, or tests.
Board Chairman Jason Dean reiterated that school district employees will continue to be paid during the closures.
Since assessments are suspended, the SBE also suspended the statewide accountability system for the school year, so districts will keep the accountability grade they received in the 2019 to 2020 school year for the 2020 to 2021 school year.
The Picayune School District Meal Program will continue to run through April 17. Free grab and go lunches for anyone 18 years and younger are available at four sites: Roseland Park Elementary, Picayune Junior High, South Side Elementary and Nicholson Elementary. The meals are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The bags include two meals: lunch and breakfast for the next day. Even on the week that the school was scheduled to be out for spring break, free grab and go meals will still be available, said Superintendent Dean Shaw.
Meals can be picked up at the front entrances for Nicholson Elementary and South Side Elementary and at the back cafeteria entrances for Roseland Park Elementary and Picayune Junior High. Parents can pull up to the entrance and be handed a meal through their vehicle window from a cafeteria worker. Children must be in the car to receive the free meals.
“Please take advantage of the breakfast and lunch program,” said Shaw. “We certainly don’t want any child to go without eating, so please participate in this.”
The Pearl River Central School District will also have a student feeding program that will begin on Monday March 23. There will be to go meals that include breakfast and lunch for the day available at three locations, said Superintendent Alan Lumpkin. More information on that feeding program will be available Friday. Parents should expect automated phone calls from the district callout system, or they can find information on the district’s Facebook page and website.
The Poplarville School District will also be sending out specific information on its feeding program Friday. Information should be available on the district’s website by 5 p.m. and the district will also be using its callout system to give parents additional information.
The Pearl River Central School District will begin providing educational resources to assist parents in homeschooling their children on Monday, said Lumpkin. Families will receive that information through methods teachers already use to communicate with students and parents during the school year, like email, class dojo and remind 101.
The district put out an informational survey on Thursday to find out what technology students already have access to. The district has a Chromebook distribution plan in place that will begin Saturday to allow students to check out a Chromebook to use at home if they do not have a device at home, said Lumpkin. More information on that program will be given to parents on Friday. Students will need Internet access to take advantage of the educational resources the school district is offering, said Lumpkin. The district will provide information about companies that are providing free Wi-Fi during the school closure.
“These resources are optional for the students. These are not assignments. They will not be graded. They are not required of the students. It’s just providing our parents with educational resources to assist them while (school is closed),” said Lumpkin.
The Poplarville School District mailed out learning packets on Monday with three weeks of material, said Superintendent Konya Miller. Students will not need technology to use the educational resources.
Parents can expect individual phone calls from the district beginning on Monday to check on students, said Miller.
“We hope that everyone’s staying safe and healthy and following the advice of our medical experts and governor,” said Miller.
The Picayune School District is still working on a plan for providing educational resources, said Shaw, and when those plans are complete, information on educational resources will be sent out to parents and will be available on the district’s website. The district’s administration appreciates the patience of families during this time, Shaw said.
Teachers and Staff
In the Pearl River Central School District, teachers all have a laptop, so they will be able to work from home, said Lumpkin. During a staff meeting held Monday, teachers were allowed to get anything they needed from the school to work from home.
The Poplarville School District sent out a survey to staff asking what the district can provide to help teachers and staff work from home, said Miller. Some essential staff will have to come to work, including some HR employees, some of the employees who deal with payroll and district employees who run the feeding program.
Within the Picayune School District, administrators are forming a plan to meet the needs of teachers and staff so they can work from home, if applicable.