The Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District now has an option for virtual learning if unforeseen circumstances occur due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SOCSD board of trustees passed a virtual learning policy Tuesday at its regular meeting. The policy says that if unforeseen circumstances present themselves, students may utilize virtual learning days on an as-needed basis in accordance with district policy.
Virtual learning days require a minimum of 330 minutes of synchronous teaching in accordance with Mississippi law. All virtual learning will be held to the same standard as in-person learning.
In order to participate in virtual learning, parents and students must sign a contract stating that the students will comply with the virtual learning policy.
“The virtual learning policy approved allows the district to serve its most vulnerable students who are unable to attend school in person due to a medical condition that places them or a loved one in their family at greater risk of serious illness from COVID,” Superintendent Eddie Peasant said.
Peasant said the school district has implemented numerous safety protocols to return to in-person learning as recommended by the Mississippi State Department of Health to protect students, staff and families, but this policy provides a virtual learning option to students and families who greatly need virtual learning.
“We appreciate the input received from parents, teachers, administrators and board members to draft a policy that supports excellence in virtual learning for students who are unable to join us in person,” Peasant said.
Lowndes County School District already has a virtual learning policy in place, Superintendent Sam Allison said.
Caledonia High School had to utilize this virtual policy for two weeks at the beginning of the semester when a COVID-19 outbreak occurred among students.
Allison said if students are required to go virtual, the district ensures students have the necessary technology to learn, such as hotspots and devices. Typically, elementary students are not allowed to take home their devices after each school day, Allison said, but if the district has to utilize virtual learning days, those students are permitted to take their devices home to learn.
“If classes have to go virtual because of COVID, then they have the paperwork in place to send those devices home with students,” Allison said.
Columbus Municipal School District is continuing face to face instruction.
CMSD Public Information Officer Mary Pollitz said the district has had low COVID-19 case numbers, and therefore, keeping students in person is the best for their education and well-being.
She said CMSD is continually reviewing policies and procedures to mitigate COVID-19 and keep students, faculty and staff as safe as possible.
“(Face to face instruction) is the most important thing to do for a child, socially and academically,” Pollitz said.