As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, questions and concerns abound regarding a return to school, but one district in Mississippi is moving full steam ahead.
The Corinth School District resumed classes Monday, both in-person and virtually. Superintendent Dr. Lee Childress said Monday was their normal start date because Corinth is on a modified school calendar.
Childress says, while they were concerned, there was an energy and excitement when classes resumed. “We have been working since schools closed in March on what we would be doing when schools were able to reopen. I think people have been looking forward to the day. Now, don’t get me wrong, all of us, staff, and parents were apprehensive, and we still are apprehensive as we move through this, but, I think the fact we could begin to return to a normal way of life where children come to school, this community was willing to try it.”
For the last eight to ten weeks, Childress began weekly Facebook Live sessions to connect and inform. “We brought parents, community, and staff along the way in planning what we were going to do for the reopening. Three models of learning were proposed and we invited parents and administrators to provide input.”
Ultimately, a traditional model and a virtual model of learning were chosen for the district’s opening strategy. Childress said both models will run on a five day week. “We will have live and recorded lessons available for those children on the virtual model. We use a learning management system called Canvas which allows activities, videos, and instructional material to be contained within the platform so children can access it at home and get their work back to us.”
In the beginning, Childress said roughly 13 to 15 percent of parents chose the virtual option, but he is already seeing children who were originally scheduled to learn virtually, opting to return to a traditional classroom setting.
With regard to safety, Childress said a variety of measures are in place. “We are doing a thermal scanning of each child and staff member’s temperature each morning. So far, we have been able to complete most of those scans prior to the start of school. The scanners are working with ease and we’re able to accomplish that and get children in the classroom ready to begin their instruction.”
As most people are having to adjust to a new way of life, the children are also getting accustomed to the new face-covering requirements. “Children are required to wear a face-covering in Pre-K through third grade anytime they are moving about the building. We do give those children an opportunity to choose not to wear it in the classroom, however, when I was in the classrooms on Monday, a large number of them are choosing to wear it, and we certainly appreciate that. I think it will go a long way toward the health and safety of our students and our staff.” said Childress.
For older students, the rules are a little more stringent. Childress explains, “For grades 4 through 6, a face covering is mandatory, to be worn at all times, unless there is proper social distancing.”
So what does social distancing look like in school? Childress says, “We’ve been able to maintain, in many places, the six-foot distance. In some cases, we can’t quite get there, but we’ve created as much space as we can.”
Childress says other safety precautions are being observed. “We are making sure that we disinfect. We made sure that all classrooms with sinks, which we’re fortunate in Pre-K through 4th grade, they’ve all been stocked with soap and hand sanitizer. We’ve supplied the same to all areas of the Corinth School District. The practices we’ve put in place in the school are basically the same practices we should all utilize at home and within our community.”
What is happening in the Corinth School District can serve as a model for other districts who are determining what a return to school will look like for their students.
Childress says, “While these have been very stressful times, the great thing that I have seen is the collaboration that has occurred between teachers, administrators, staff, parents, and the community to make this possible. That’s extremely important. And one of the things I think we all need to remember is that schools are a reflection of our community. Our communities have to stay safe. We need to listen to what Governor Tate Reeves is saying, and what Dr. Dobbs is saying, regarding safe practices within our community. I think if we will adhere to those recommendations, we will go a long way towards having safer schools.”