Good evening Yellow Jacket families,
Today marked several firsts since our school buildings closed in March in response to Covid-19.
Emerson Family School
Emerson Family School reopened today to provide care for our youngest Yellow Jackets.
Athletic Workouts & Practices As Allowed by MHSAA
Our football, baseball, basketball, cheer, soccer, and volleyball teams returned to in-person workouts and practices under strict guidelines as established by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
For more information about the District’s guidelines for athletics, click on the link below: https://www.starkvillesd.com/athletics/news/1682946/jacket-athletics-scheduled-to-begin-summer-practices-june-15
Google Classroom Officially Launched
Our elementary teachers officially introduced Google Classroom to our students who are participating in summer learning options. Google Classroom is the District’s new Digital Learning System for virtual instruction. While our students are joining us from home, our teachers are in their classrooms at their schools which allows our technical team to offer immediate support to teachers during class.
While we anticipate a return to in-person instruction in the fall, we’re excited about this opportunity for some of our students to participate in meaningful learning experiences this summer while our teachers also become more familiar with delivering engaging instruction through this new online format.
Return to School Plan for August
I know many of you are anxiously waiting for the District to share our return to school plan for August. While our plan is not yet finalized, I wanted to provide you with an update on our planning process.
It is unlikely it will be safe for schools to fully return to normal operations until the directive to physically distance is removed and restrictions on group gatherings have been lifted. The health and safety of our students, staff and families is of utmost importance. When the 2020-2021 school year begins, school will likely look much different than previous years due to new health and safety measures in response to Covid-19.
Every decision we make will be rooted in our commitment to equity and access to quality instruction for all students supported with safe and best practices during a pandemic.
The Mississippi Department of Education has released its guidance for reopening schools that includes three options for school schedules:
- Traditional Schedule: A traditional schedule would require students to be physically present in school with scheduling modifications to follow CDC and Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) recommendations. Considerations for students, staff and facilities include the following:
- Daily screening protocols (Ex.: Temperature checks, self-assessments)
- Transportation adjustments (Ex.: Staggered beginning and ending times at each school campus)
- Routine disinfectant protocols
- Consider a static schedule for students to remain in classrooms while teacher(s) move from class to class to limit exposure
- Create plan for serving students and adjusting duties for staff who cannot return to building due to high risk health issues
- Restrict gatherings in buildings to achieve social distancing guidelines
- Hybrid Schedule: A hybrid schedule combines online and in-person instruction for students. Below are three options defined by the MDE for hybrid schedules:
- A/B Days: Divide student population in half with each half reporting to school alternating and participating in distance learning on alternating days. In this option students would come to school on Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday for in-person instruction. Note: This model would eliminate planning time Monday-Thursday for our teachers. Fridays could be used for planning and professional development for teachers or online learning support for students. Fridays could also be used to deep clean our buildings weekly in addition to routine daily disinfecting & sanitizing.
- Elementary Face-to-Face & Secondary Distance Learning: Elementary students attend school in-person four days a week spread out across all available classroom spaces to reduce the student teacher ratio to support social distancing while secondary students would attend school online through a virtual classroom. Note: Elementary face-to-face option would require two teachers for each class of up to 24 students. One teacher would be a regular classroom teacher while the second teacher would be another teacher or teacher assistant.
- Elementary Face-to-Face & Secondary A/B Days: Combines options 1 & 2 to reduce number of students in schools each day to achieve social distancing guidelines.
- Virtual Schedule: Considerations for distance learning effectiveness include the following:
- Sufficient internet bandwidth
- Mitigation of the digital divide among families
- Implementation of a Learning Management System (LMS); The Starkville Oktibbeha School District has selected Google Classroom as our digital learning platform for elementary students while our middle/high school students will continue to use Canvas to streamline digital tools and content.
- Training for teachers, students and families on teaching and learning in a virtual environment
You can view the entire plan from the MDE here: https://msachieves.mdek12.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Considerations-for-Reopening-Schools-June-8-FINAL.pdf
Within the next two weeks, the Starkville Oktibbeha School District will survey parents about which option you prefer for your child(ren). While the Starkville Oktibbeha School District believes nothing can replace in-person instruction, we do understand other learning options must be available for our students, teachers and families during this time. We have an incredible opportunity to reimagine education as a powerful, impactful experience that transforms our students and their futures even when we cannot be together at school every day.
Based on the most up-to-date information available, the District will also be sharing a comprehensive return to school guide in early July to help prepare our teachers, students, and families about what to expect. This includes screening at home, arriving for school, wearing face coverings when necessary, washing hands regularly, disinfecting schedules, serving breakfast and lunch, purchasing school supplies to reduce sharing between students, limiting campus visitors, and much more.
Waivers from the Mississippi Department of Education
Following the release of the MDE Considerations for Reopening Mississippi Schools, the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) suspended several policies to give local school districts scheduling flexibility for the 2020-21 school year to deal with the impact of COVID-19.
For the 2020-21 school year, districts may meet the 180-day teaching requirement by implementing one or more of three scheduling options for operating schools: traditional, virtual or a hybrid of in-person and distance learning.
To help districts develop class schedules, the number of daily instructional hours required has been reduced from 5.5 hours to 4 hours per day.
For high school courses that offer Carnegie unit credit, the 140-hour instructional requirement for one-credit courses and the 70-hour instructional requirement for half-credit courses will be waived if the district develops a plan to ensure students master the course content. The plan must be approved by the local school board and posted on the district’s website by September 30, 2020.
For more information on the waivers provided by SBE, click on the link below:
I also want to make you aware the Academic Calendar for the 2020-21 school year will likely be amended. At this time, we are planning to remove three late start days currently scheduled for the fall semester. We are also considering whether to remove fall break from the calendar. Depending on the rate of Covid-19 spread in November/December, we may transition to an entirely virtual learning schedule after Thanksgiving break.
Staying Safe Together
If you are discouraged or frustrated about not knowing what August holds for our schools, I understand. This is a difficult time to plan ahead as public health information is frequently changing, but your school leaders are constantly monitoring and evaluating the latest information as we plan. We're also involving internal and external stakeholders through the Superintendent's Advisory Council, Social Emotional Learning Task Force, and school level re-entry teams to guide our planning process. Our plans are flexible, and our response to the challenges of Covid-19 continues to evolve.
We ask for your continued patience and understanding as we move into this next phase of response and prepare for a new normal. We will get through this together.