Forrest County School District prepares for first day of school

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:02 PM CDT
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FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - All students in the Forrest County School District will return to school in person on July 26.

Superintendent Brian Freeman said the district released a tentative back to school COVID-19 plan earlier this summer, but with the rise of case numbers, there have been adjustments.

“COVID has threw us a curveball, so we’re going to adjust and try to keep everybody safe, which is our primary goal,” Freeman said.

Unvaccinated students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors as recommended by the Mississippi State Department of Health. Students and staff who can provide proof of vaccination will not have to wear masks or quarantine after exposure to someone infected with the virus.

Freeman said the district will continue contact tracing.

These procedures are in place until at least Labor Day. Freeman said the board will be review protocol weekly and adjusted as needed.

“We will constantly be revisiting this information as we go forward, but right now due to the increase in numbers, we have to go back to some of the procedures that we had hoped were behind us,” Freeman said.

Masks will still be required for everyone on buses since they qualify as public transportation under federal law.

“Buses are a concern because our buses are going to have more children on it this year than they were last year, and it’s predominantly because of the fact that we can’t run extra routes like we were able to do last year,” Freeman said. “We still will be adjusting routes as we start the school year. Last year, we had an abbreviated schedule, which allowed us to share multiple buses with multiple schools. We’re going to be able to do some of that this year but not to the level we did last year. So please understand there could be some delays early on with busing, there always is.”

Freeman shared some other general projects the district is working on.

“Almost every school will have new Promethean boards throughout,” Freeman said. “Several hundred thousand dollars of an investment that the board has committed to as well as some different instructional whiteboards throughout the campus we’re looking at repainting a lot of our facilities.”

The district is replacing the heating and air systems at each school this year. The solar panels at North Forrest High School will be running as school starts.

“Some point next week, they will shut the power off to the performing arts center and actually make a hard connection with the solar panels. And at that point, hopefully, we will be producing electricity,” Freeman said.

In addition to those upgrades, the district will be providing school supplies to all students free of charge and free meals continue this school year thanks to federal COVID-19 funding.

In terms of staff changes, Freeman said all principals from last year remain in place.

“There is a new assistant at North Forrest, Mr. Kevin Jackson. He’s been in the district for several years and has been a counselor and has had administrative experience before,” Freeman said. “He will be filling that assistance role at North Forrest High School.”

Freeman said the district has a one-to-one for students to electronic learning devices, but hopefully, those devices will not be relied on as heavily as last year.

“Some will be taking them home, but not every day,” Freeman said. “So it’s not like last year where you know virtual was needed all the time with the computer.”

Freeman thanked parents and students for their cooperation last year and asked that they stay flexible and understanding as the new year begins. The Forrest County School District will continue to post updates to policies on their social media.

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