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Oxford School District to release 2020-21 academic plan next month

With high schools shifting to virtual graduation and putting a bow on the current school year, administrators must now look toward August.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to close their campuses and shift to online distance learning the final two months of the year. With unknowns in play and a decision regarding the 2020-21 school year still to be determined, area schools are planning for several scenarios.

Oxford School District announced to parents and students on Thursday their intentions to release the district’s academic plan for when school resumes on Aug. 10 by “no later than” June 15, according to superintendent Brian Harvey.

“As we close out the 2019-20 school year, we are pressed to think about what we will do in August should the direction from our elected officials and medical professionals be to continue with social distancing and remain closed,” Harvey said in a video. “This plan will include multiple alternatives for educating students of the Oxford School District if we are unable to follow our regular school day schedule.”

Some of the alternatives mentioned by Harvey were a blend of in-person instructional and virtual learning and full-time virtual learning, should that become necessary due to social distancing requirements.

One change OSD has already made regarding next year is the transition to 4×4 block scheduling at Oxford High School, if in-person instruction is allowed to resume in August. Student schedule requests will be still be honored for yearly enrollment.

“The block schedule will do several things that will aid with the uncertainty of the future,” Harvey said. “First, students will only be responsible for up to four academic courses per semester. In the event of a future closure, this will help students to focus only on four academic courses and alleviate the stress of not having to complete assignments in six different courses in a semester.”

Harvey continued by saying the change to block scheduling will also limit the number of class exchanges during the day, limiting the exposure to potential risks and the need for as much hand sanitizer and cleaning materials.

Lafayette County School District has not announced any academic plans for the upcoming school year, or when they may reveal them to parents and students.

The need for students to have better access to internet service was amplified due to the pandemic causing virtual education to be a must, if schools do not reopen in August.

On Wednesday, Mississippi superintendent of education Dr. Carey Wright testified before the Mississippi Senate Education Committee, outlining the Mississippi Department of Education’s plan to connect all children across the state to the internet to provide better digital instruction by teachers.

“We have a moral imperative to ensure that every child in Mississippi has an equal opportunity and learn, whether they are at school or at home,” Wright said. “This is 2020. Every child should have access to a device and high-quality instructional materials.”

The MDE’s plan includes putting a device into every student’s hand in Mississippi who needs one, ensuring they have internet access at their home and training teachers how to teach remotely. Their plan also includes providing school districts across the state with a choice of high-quality options for a digital curriculum and an online system to deliver it to their students.

Mississippi is receiving $1.25 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. MDE is seeking to use $250 million of those funds for equipment, licenses and professional development, but their plan will need an additional $100 million a year for the next two years for license renewals, professional development and refreshing equipment.