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Hattiesburg Public School District superintendent shares back to school plan

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 4:02 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Even though it’s summer, school districts are still hard at work preparing for class in the fall.

The Hattiesburg Public School District has released a plan for its return for the 2021-2022 school year, and students could see some changes.

“We have released our plans, our safe return to school plan, and it currently consists of, of course, we will adhere to the Center for Disease Control recommendations and Mississippi State Department of Health guidelines. And we’re going to go with the most restrictive guidelines,” said HPSD Superintendent Robert Williams.

The district is currently offering summer school classes that follow the 2020-2021 guidelines as they prepare for changes in the fall.

“Currently, we have a K-12 summer program and we are continuing the month of June as if it was part of the 2021 school year,” Williams said. “All of the students are still wearing masks. All of the staff there is instructed to wear masks. We do anticipate having some additional flexibility for the next school year.”

The biggest change for next year is virtual learning not being an option.

“I just want to emphasize to parents that next year the expectation is all students grades pre-K through 12, in-person instruction,” Williams said. “The only exception will be those students that have the extreme medical conditions, and seniors who have met graduation requirements.”

Some COVID-19 protocols will remain.

“We’re looking at keeping those protocols in some shape, form or fashion going forward because while COVID may go away, dealing with schools the past probably three years we’ve dealt with high instances of the flu,” Williams said.

Williams says that the plan is flexible and will follow CDC and health expert guidelines. Requirements may even vary by school and grade.

“We are going to take into consideration currently students under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination,” Williams said. “So we are going to have, if it stays the same, a different set of guidelines for staff and students who work with populations under the age of 12.”

The district will not require any staff or students to get vaccinated, but Williams says it is highly encouraged. School leaders are looking for ways to help with vaccination efforts.

“We’re in the process. This summer we will be working with some of our partners to provide vaccination opportunities at Hattiesburg High School as well as N.R. Burger Middle School,” Williams said. “We have clinics at both those campuses, so we’re trying to work to provide opportunities for those families to have their students vaccinated through that. With our staff, we’re also encouraging our staff to make a good choice and decision for themselves as well.”

Williams expressed his gratitude to students and parents for the flexibility and understanding last year and says he is looking forward to the changes coming in the fall.

“Our number one concern is to make sure that we not only provide a safe work environment for our students, but also parents entrust us with their child’s safety, and we want to make sure we’re doing our very best to do that,” Williams said.

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