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Mississippi Department of Education releases reopening strategies before school resumes in fall

JACKSON — The Mississippi Department of Education has created a timeline of strategies for school leaders to consider in planning to start the 2020-21 school year.

The strategies, outlined in the document, Considerations for Reopening Mississippi Schools, were created by the MDE and a workgroup of nine superintendents from a diverse range of school districts, MDE officials said.

The document, which can be viewed here, is intended to be used as a resource and starting point for districts to consider local needs in collaboration with stakeholders, MDE said in a press release.

“It will be updated in three-month intervals to adjust to changes with the COVID-19 outbreak,” the press release states. “Local school districts are responsible for designing school schedules that best meet the needs of their communities. School calendars, including the first and last day of school and school holidays, are set at the district level.”

Natchez Adams County School District Superintendent Fred Butcher said earlier this week that local school administrators and staff are developing two or three recommendations for how they may conduct classes in the fall that would be presented to the Mississippi Department of Education for approval and guidance.

Butcher said if in-person classes do not resume, then district officials would consider hybrid distance learning classes with both print and online learning materials.

“We hope to have more recommendations to present to the board on June 16,” Butcher said.

The Natchez Adams School District began test-driving hybrid classes — with both print and online materials — through a summer school program this week and are developing a five-year plan to upgrade the district’s technological infrastructure, Butcher said.

State law requires schools to provide 180 days of instruction each school year, MDE officials said.

“The Mississippi State Board of Education will consider several policies at its regularly scheduled June meeting to give local school districts scheduling flexibility for the 2020-21 school year to deal with the impact of COVID-19,” the press release states. “The SBE meeting will be held at 10 a.m. June 11. The meeting can be viewed via livestream at msachieves.mdek12.org.