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State Board of Education seeks public input on in-person learning policies

Parents have an opportunity to speak out about the return to in-person learning for the upcoming school year.

While Oxford and Lafayette County School Districts already made the transition to return to in-person learning, the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) is seeking input on in-person learning becoming the primary method for all districts.

The SBE is asking for public comment on two policies that call for all school districts to resume in-person instruction as the primary mode of teaching, starting with the 2021-22 school year. The policies set requirements for districts that choose to offer a virtual learning option to individual students and establish standards for virtual learning days.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Mississippi in March of last year, school campuses were closed and all school districts shifted to a virtual learning method the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. When the 2020-21 school year began in August, Oxford and Lafayette County schools resumed in-person learning as part of a hybrid method with virtual learning still being offered.

As the 2021-22 school year is set to begin in a little over a month from now, OSD is going to discuss and review the temporary modifications policy around mid-July in hopes of getting more guidance and new information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In talking with some other superintendents, we have no reason not to have school as normal (as possible) in the fall at this point because we’ve received no other guidance not to,” said OSD superintendent Bradley Roberson.

Roberson said the district has not received much feedback from parents this summer either way in regards to returning to a completely in-person learning method or continue to the virtual method for students.

Summer school is currently underway at Oxford and is is being held in classrooms where Roberson said masks are recommended but not required and some students are choosing to wear them.

Under the proposed policies, districts that offer a virtual option for individual students must adopt local board-approved policies that include the criteria for students to participate in virtual learning, requirements for equipment, connectivity, attendance and student conduct, and assurances of equal access and non-discrimination and the delivery of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities.

All students who take part in virtual learning will be required to take the statewide assessments on campus at the end of the school year.

“The Mississippi Department of Education remains committed to providing guidance and support to help districts ensure all students have access to in-person learning,” said state superintendent of education, Dr. Carey Wright.

The proposed policies will allow districts to provide school-wide or district-wide virtual learning days in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as weather emergencies or an epidemic prevailing in the district. Districts must also ensure any virtual learning days include actual teaching for a minimum of 330 minutes (five and a half hours), as state law requires. Districts are required to provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction.

Anyone who wishes to provide comment to the SBE on the proposed policies can do so through July 12 at 5 p.m. The comments will be submitted to the SBE on July 15 for consideration of final approval. The comments will be submitted to Dr. Jo Ann Malone at accreditation@mdek12.org.

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