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Harsher vaping punishments, longer school day in store for some Jones County schools

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - Teachers and students within the Jones County School District all return to the classroom Aug. 6.

Getting back to the usual routine seems to be the theme this year for Jones County schools.

“What we really would like to do is to return our school district, our students, our teachers back to what we consider a normal school year,” said Tommy Parker, superintendent of the Jones County School District.

Although the structure of the school day is set to be standard, there are some changes to expect. One of the big ones is a schedule change for seventh-12th grade students, extending the school day by about 20 minutes.

According to Parker, all middle and high schoolers will go to school from 7:50 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., opposed to the former 2:45 p.m. dismissal time.

“Extending the school day… adding a period, we now have eight periods in our high school and middle school day rather than seven,” Parker said.

Along with making up for lost time, Parker says the additional period also helps expand the number of elective classes students can take.

“That in part is to try to help our students get caught up from this 18 months, 15 months or so of learning loss,” Parker said. “Graduation requirements have increased for our students in ninth and 10th grade, and of course, with an extra period, they should be able to gain another Carnegie unit of credit if they need to in order to graduate.”

Another big change — the district is cracking down on vaping.

“We’ve put some pretty strong disciplinary action in for students that choose to vape and to try and address that epidemic that we have with the vaping with the school age students,” Parker said.

Students caught vaping could face tough punishments.

“Based on the type of product that they’re vaping with and that sort of thing, where the location is if they’re exposing other students… all those kinds of things are taken into account,” Parker said. “We kind of created a discipline ladder where they can get anything from maybe a warning all the way to a suspension from school.”

Additionally, 4-year-olds in every Jones County Schools community now have the opportunity to start pre-K. Parker says West Jones is the final area in the district receiving access to early learning.

“I just think that’s the key to us to get those students early and to begin to prepare them for kindergarten, first grade, those foundational things they’ll need to progress through school,” Parker said.

As for COVID-19 guidelines, Mr. Parker says Jones County schools are not planning to enforce mask mandates or vaccination requirements at this time. However, that could change if the Mississippi State Department of Health releases new required guidelines to the Department of Education.

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