Saturday, December 9, 2023

Oxford Schools Will Open in August to Students; Virtual Classes Optional

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

While plans can change at any time, Oxford school officials are reviewing plans that will see most students back in the classroom when doors open in August.

On Monday, the Oxford School Board of Trustees discussed temporary modifications of procedures for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year to allow students to return to school in August while offering an online option for parents who do not yet feel it is safe for their child to return to school.

It was the first reading of the proposed guidelines.

The Mississippi Department of Education’s Considerations for Reopening Mississippi Schools suggested three options for schools – a traditional schedule where students are in the classroom; a virtual schedule providing distance learning or a hybrid of traditional and virtual schedules.

Last month, the school board members said they preferred to have students in class. A recent survey of parents showed 49 percent also preferred to send their children to school.

Listen to a recording of the OSD Board of Trustees’ discussion from Monday’s meeting here.

Superintendent Brian Harvey convened a School Reopening Committee on June 5 and 12 to consider safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Mississippi Department of Health and to recommend temporary modifications to school procedures.

“This is a starting point,” Harvey told the Board members Monday. “This could all change tomorrow.”

Another survey was sent out to parents Tuesday asking if they wish their child to return to school or if they want their child to remain at home for the first nine weeks and attend school via distance learning online.

Students returning to school in grades pre-K through sixth grade will be in “static classes,” where they will spend the majority of their day in one classroom. Specials teachers – art, music, et cetera – will come to each classroom. Physical Education will be held outdoors whenever possible.

A second reading of the proposed temporary modifications will be held in July where the Board will vote on the new policies.

The proposed temporary modifications include the following:

  • Screening protocols. Daily temperature checks will be required for all students and staff. Age-appropriate screening questions will be asked each day. Students and staff should not come to school if they have a fever (defined as a temperature of 100.4 degrees or above) or have displayed other symptoms of COVID-19. If a student or staff member is found to have a fever while at school, they will be referred to the school nurse for evaluation. Students who are sent to school knowingly sick may be sent home for up to ten days for evaluation. The District will enact protocols to ensure that students and staff stay home when sick and are promptly sent home if they arrive at school sick or develop fever or other symptoms while at school.
  • Restricted visitors. Visitors will not be able to enter school buildings except as deemed necessary by school principals.
  • Face coverings. Because it is not feasible to expect students and staff to maintain the CDC-recommended physical distance of 6 feet at all times, face coverings will be required to enter all school buildings, in common areas and on school buses. Students and staff in pre-K through sixth grade will be able to remove their face coverings in their classrooms because their classes will be static. Students and staff in seventh through 12th grade may remove face coverings where 6 feet of physical distance can be maintained.
  • Large gatherings and common spaces. Large gatherings and common spaces. Large assemblies, gatherings, and field trips will be suspended during school hours. Meals will be served inside classrooms. Secondary students will be encouraged, where possible, to change classes using exterior routes.
  • Full-time virtual learning. Parents will be able to choose full-time virtual instruction during the 2020-2021 school year if they do not feel safe sending their child to school or they do not want their child to wear a face covering. Any student required to stay home because of illness will be able to transition to a full-time virtual schedule while at home and transition back to a traditional schedule once cleared to return to school.
  • Health awareness and education. Students and staff will receive education on physical distancing, use of face coverings, personal hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection.
  • Temporary closures. The superintendent may temporarily close one or more schools for appropriate cleaning and planning if he determines daily student attendance has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 infections for three consecutive school days. All students affected by such a temporary closure would transition to a full-time virtual schedule until the school reopens.All measures outlined in this policy are temporary and subject to further review and change based on information received from local, state, and federal officials. The superintendent and designees will continue to monitor available data including local case counts, hospital readiness, and trends over time. The superintendent shall also have the authority to make changes to these procedures based on emergent changing conditions, subject to review by the Board.