Prentiss County students will start the school year slightly later and with a modified schedule as the district prepares for the first new semester since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Jeff Palmer presented the school board with an updated overview of reopening plans during Monday’s regular board meeting.
The start of the school year has been moved back five days from August 5 to August 10. Parents will have the option to choose either at-home or on-campus study for their children during the registration process, which is going on now. All registration links, information and details on reopening can be found on the district’s website at prentisscountyschools.com and on the district’s social media channels including the form to request the remote learning option. The deadline to make a request for remote learning is August 5 and a school counselor or other staff member will contact parents to confirm the request and provide additional information once it is made.
Palmer explained the adjustment to the school calendar is to allow teachers and administrators a few additional days to prepare campuses and instructors for new procedures required to meet CDC, state health department and state department of education guidelines.
When on-campus students return to class, it will initially be on a hybrid schedule. Students will be split into two groups with half going Monday and Wednesday and half going Tuesday and Thursday. Fridays will be reserved for those doing distance learning to come to campus for any needed testing or meetings. All on campus students will return to class together beginning on Monday, August 31.
Students will participate in distance learning lessons and assignments on the days they’re not on campus during the hybrid period.
Palmer described the opening as a “soft start” that will enable students, teachers, staff and administrators an opportunity to get used to new procedures and work out any issues with those procedures with a smaller number of students on campus each day before bringing everyone back to campus.
Online learning is being implemented in every class and the online systems will be used whether on campus or off to ensure every student receives the same materials, takes part in the same assignments and is tested to the same rigor whether on campus or off.
Palmer explained to the board they are making sure they have plans in place to respond to changing circumstances and the online systems, which have been prepared and planned for through intense work and training by teachers throughout the spring and summer, will allow as seamless a transition as possible between on-campus and at-home learning as individual and community circumstances require.
The district has established guidelines and purchased equipment for increased cleaning and sanitation of all facilities. Masks will be provided for students and will be required in any situation where adequate social distancing is not possible. Parents may also provide their own masks for students if necessary.
The superintendent said they want to limit the need to wear masks or face shields as much as possible, but due to the available facilities at each campus there will be situations where it’s simply not possible to provide sufficient distance between individuals and such protection will be required to meet health guidelines.
All students and staff members will have their temperature checked using non-contact, infrared thermometers before entering campus buildings in the morning and again prior to lunch. Anyone who shows a temperature above 100.4, the current CDC guideline, will be isolated and will not be allowed to go to school that day. Depending on the exact circumstances and reasons for the elevated temperature, they will be sent home for a number of days and will be required to participate through distance learning until they are cleared to return. Full details of the decision-making process for each possible situation can be found in flow charts included in the district’s reopening presentation available on the district’s website.
Pickup and drop-off routines, breakfast and lunch procedures, movement between classes, and other day-to-day specifics will vary among the individual campuses depending upon the facilities available. The superintendent said they have provided guidelines and rules for what must be done and left it to the individual principals to create a plan to meet those requirements on their individual campuses.
Each principal presented their plans to the school board Monday evening and will be communicating with parents through a variety of methods to make sure everyone knows what to expect as school begins.
Palmer said the district’s teachers and administrators have been preparing for the return to school this fall since the spring and he’s extremely proud of the dedication they’ve shown and the countless hours they’ve put in to adapt to the changing situation and ensure every student has the opportunity to learn and succeed whatever the future brings.
A frequently asked questions page about the school reopening can be found on the district’s website. It is constantly being updated as questions arise. Anyone who has questions that can’t be answered by the materials on the website is encouraged to call the district office or email pcsdinfo@ prentiss.k12.ms.us with their questions or concerns.
In other business Monday, the board:
accepted the resignations of Susan McBrayer (teacher assistant at Marietta), Chris McCormick (bus driver at Hills Chapel) and Sonya Holloway (business, marketing and finance teacher at the Prentiss County Career and Technology Center).
approved Jeffrey Cates as assistant principal and teacher at Thrasher.
approved Lee Cooper (Thrasher), Margie Thorne (Jumpertown) and Brenda Lambert (Hills Chapel) as additional full-time maintenance/janitorial staff.
approved bus drivers for handicapped buses: Bryan Hargett (Hills Chapel), George Moore (Jumpertown), Denise Goss (New Site), Karen McCalmon (Thrasher), Larry Eaton (Wheeler).
approved the following as bus drivers: Harry Allen (New Site), Kevin Bailus (Wheeler vo-tech route), Bruce Padgett (Jumpertown), Amy Moore (Jumpertown) and Matt Stacy (Hills Chapel)
approved bus monitors for handicap buses: Nikki Bullock (Hills Chapel), Jennifer Pullen (Hills Chapel substitute), Brittany Phillips (Jumpertown), Andrea Williams (Jumpertown substitute), Carla King (New Site), Amy Swader (New Site substitute), Amanda Boren (Thrasher), Linda McKinnon (Thrasher), Andrea Boren (Thrasher substitute), Rhonda Grider (Wheeler), Melanie Price (Wheeler substitute).
approved LH Hurt as a paraprofessional for Thrasher softball.
approved the following substitutes for the 2020-21 school year: Julia Jefferies, Angela Trimble, Pam Harris, Linda Pace, Darla Weatherbee, Kristen Nunley, Gussie Holland, Kristy Johnson, Jessica McGaha, Phyllis Harper, Larry Steven Goldman, Dorothy Cagle, Jane Hudson, Ashley Lewis, Julie Waddell, Laci Adams, Avery Barns, Reba Downs, Jane Hudson, Karl Hudson, Seth Lewis, Ashley McCarter, Eddie Moreland, Rebecca Stroupe, Samantha Bearden (bus only), Vicki White (bus only), Sharon Arnold (bus only), Julie Clark (bus only), Mavie Bone, Belinda Dunaway, Jennifer Faulkner, Amy Hamby, Krissy Johnson, Donna Reese, April Sims, Candace Allen, Kristen Nunley, Judy Kesler, Marilyn Martin, Stephanie Morris, Marilyn Staggs, Natalie Thomas, Gail Wardlow, Kayla Williams, Angela Wright, Jennifer Kennedy, Mike Hatfield, Mandy Houston
approved Sandy Cox as cafeteria manager at Wheeler.
approved Misty Roberts as a cafeteria employee at Wheeler.
approved Kaila Penna as a part-time math teacher at Hills Chapel.
approved Rhonda Goodwin as a special education teacher at Jumpertown.
approved Elisha Jumper as a part-time speech pathologist.
approved Pam Lauderdale as an intervention specialist.