The Lamar County School District has made some significant changes to its previously-approved return-to-school plan, including stricter mask mandates and delaying the start of school.
The changes were made during a July 27 meeting of the school district’s board of trustees, during which time board members decided to make masks mandatory for all students and staff as part of the district’s dress code. Under the previous back-to-school plan, students were required to wear masks on school buses, but not while in the classroom.
“Changes to close contact guidance and an effort to support those who wanted to attend in person or teach who are at high risk (motivated that decision),” district superintendent Tess Smith said.
Under the previous plan, the district chose to open with a traditional in-school format after a survey showed approximately 77 percent of parents surveyed wanted full traditional school, with children in classes, while about 22 percent preferred their children receive an online education. Under that plan, students who chose the virtual route would not be able to participate in extracurricular activities, but that decision also has been reversed, as both traditional and virtual students will now be able to take part in those events.
“We would have allowed it in our original plan, but we did not have guidance from the (Mississippi High School Activities Association) at the time the original plan was approved,” Smith said. “Coaches voted 58 to 34 in support of allowing them to play. Some felt that otherwise, those students did not get a choice.”
In addition, the start of school will be delayed by one week, with an updated calendar to be prepared immediately.
There was a motion to reopen the school district under the hybrid model – which would utilize a mixture of traditional and virtual schooling – but that motion failed because of the lack of a vote.
“The board did vote to make the hybrid model Plan B for a school, a community of schools, and/or the district if outbreaks (of COVID-19) occur to the degree warranted,” Smith said. “I will ask schools to prepare their A and B groups as well as any other school-based plans related to our hybrid plan B.”
The board also approved a COVID-19 attendance policy, which includes the following:
In-person mode (traditional): A minimum of 240 minutes of instruction per day is required, and daily attendance is taken by the classroom teachers.
Virtual model: A minimum of 240 minutes of instruction must be completed, with those hours counting toward daily attendance. Attending scheduled weekly interactions – one-on-one or in groups – is required, with those hours going toward daily attendance. Daily metadata for accessing software, completing assignments, and participating in scheduled meetings by the classroom teacher will be reported.
Hybrid mode: A daily minimum of 240 minutes of instruction must be completed, along with a daily assignment. Attending scheduled weekly meetings – one-on-one or in groups – will be required, with those hours counted toward daily attendance. Daily attendance will be reported by the classroom teacher, as will metadata for accessing software, completing assignments, and participating in scheduled weekly interactions by classroom teachers.