State superintendent discusses first days of school in Mississippi amid pandemic

State superintendent discusses first days of school in Mississippi amid pandemic

JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright held a press conference just as school districts across the state were returning some of their students to in person-classes for some of the first times since March.

Just hours before the press conference, the State Board of Education voted to give an optional 10-day waiver to districts who choose to delay their start date.

State law requires Mississippi schools to operate 180 days each school year, but Wright said this waiver will give districts flexibility in planning when to open schools in consideration to the number of cases in their area.

Another piece of new information revealed Thursday is that the board had approved a vendor to provide 400,000 devices for districts across the state.

Wright said the department surveyed all districts asking about the need for devices. Wright said about $150 million is going toward purchasing devices for school districts and $50 million will go to improving broadband and connectivity. Wright also said the devices will be able to connect through WiFi or cellular data. Wright said school districts can expect to start seeing these devices in September and possibly into October.

Districts were also able to purchases devices throughout the summer and are able to send those receipts to the state Department of Education to be reimbursed with funds from the CARES Act. Wright said districts were given rules for allowable expenses well in advance for planning purposes.

According to Harrison County Superintendent Roy Gill, his district is approved to buy devices for the students who need to do virtual learning but don’t have the technology.

Gill said they can’t place the order until Sept. 1, and the delivery date is projected to be in November.

On the first day of school, Gill said five parents called for help with the online learning portal and they all got logged into their accounts.

“Our Tech department has really made sure that have monitored everything closely today,” Gill said. “They have not seen any issues with the loads coming in with all of ours, and we prepared every teacher, not just single teachers to go virtual. Our platform Schoolagey, every teacher has the capability. Because there will be times where we have issues, where any particular class at any given time will have to go virtual.”

Once superintendents get through will transitioning students back to in-person classes, Wright plans to discuss with superintendents how to implement benchmarks assessments for the beginning of the school year.

While Wright did say she trusts superintendents, explaining how she had recently spoken to Bonita Coleman with the Ocean Springs School District and Coleman reported a good first day, she would not be surprised if a situation like at the Corinth School District happened again, where a school had to shut down because of a positive COVID-19 test.

To see a list of all of the back to school plans for school districts in South Mississippi, click HERE.

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