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Sunday Focus: Local schools prepare to welcome students back for new year

NATCHEZ — The public and private educational institutions of Natchez, Adams County and Concordia Parish have kept a watchful eye on the COVID-19 pandemic to determine how schools will begin the 2020-2021 school year next month.

Natchez Adams School District

The tentative plan for Natchez Adams School District is to reopen the week of Aug. 10 using a hybrid schedule of both virtual and face-to-face instruction, school officials said.

Students would be divided into A and B sections for which face-to-face lessons will be provided twice a week — either Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays depending on each section — while the remainder of lessons are hosted online.

Some students may be required to report to school on Fridays at their teachers’ discretion while some high school students who meet certain requirements may have fully virtual lessons, school officials said.

This plan may still change based on changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mississippi Department of Education and as the district works to instruct students in the safest environment possible.

School officials said questions may be sent via e-mail to nasdcares@natchezschools.org and changes to the schools reopening plans will be updated on the district’s website at natchezadamsschooldistrict.org.

Private and parochial schools

Adams County Christian School is preparing to begin the school year on Aug. 10 with students attending classes on campus, school officials said.

In a letter emailed to parents and guardians in June, Middle and High School Vice Principal Cricket Daugherty said because ACCS has the benefit of considerably smaller class sizes than public institutions, the school has “more options available to make face-to-face instruction a reality” while following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mississippi Department of Health and guidance from the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools.

“(Our) administrative team is currently meeting to examine all recommendations … to develop a specific plan to encompass all necessary safety precautions for the fall semester. We will publish this plan once it has been finalized,” the letter states.

Cathedral headmaster Norm Yvon said Cathedral would also open Aug. 10 following strict procedures to mitigate the spread of the disease.

“We’ll be taking everyone’s temperature before they come in the door and if it’s higher than 100.4 then the will be sent home until their fever is over,” Yvon said. “Everyone will be wearing masks with distancing protocols in place. We are looking forward to a good start of the school year and if everything we’ve put in place goes well we’ll be able to continue having in-person classes.”

Louisiana

School officials in Concordia Parish said they have three options on the table for fall classes that include fully virtual classes, a mixture of virtual and in-person lessons and a full reopening using whatever guidelines the Louisiana Department of Health has in place to protect students and staff.

Concordia Parish Public Schools in Vidalia, Ferriday, Monterey and Ridgecrest have a scheduled reopening on Aug. 7, Superintendent Whest Shirley said.

Earlier this summer, the school district received a Strong Start 2020 Grant for approximately $1.6 million that would enable them to order some 2,700 Chrome Books and hotspot devices so that students could work from home if needed, Shirley said.

“The Concordia Parish School Board is working on three plans depending on what phase Louisiana is in,” Shirley said. “One is face-to-face, a hybrid plan very similar to what Adams County is doing and totally virtual. We’re hoping that we will be able to go totally virtual by the middle or end of August after we’ve had all the equipment that we’ve ordered come in.”

Delta Charter School Principal, Jimmy Comeaux, said Delta Charter School has similar plans riding on the pandemic’s effect on the state.

Delta Charter School has a scheduled reopening on Aug. 17, Comeaux said, adding if all goes well the school could resume in-person classes with Louisiana Department of Health guidelines in place. Otherwise, the school may have either half or fully virtual classes this fall, Comeaux said.

“We’re still watching to see what phase we will be to see how things will be when it’s time for school to start,” Comeaux said. “Nothing is definite yet, but we are working on multiple plans.”