/Governor closes public schools until April 17; state testing is cancelled

Governor closes public schools until April 17; state testing is cancelled

After the governor asked schools to extend spring break in order to stop the spread of coronavirus, public schools were already shut down this week. Reeves posted on Facebook that he would sign an executive order to close public schools through April 17. The virus is still spreading throughout the state. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, there had been 50 confirmed cases as of Thursday morning. Reeves stated in a Facebook Live video that “This is not something I take lightly.” “In fact it is perhaps my most difficult decision in nearly 17 years of service to the public,” Reeves said in a Facebook Live video. He stated that school districts will continue to receive state funding and teachers will still be paid. The Mississippi Legislature had passed legislation earlier in the day that allowed city, county and school districts to provide paid leave for coronavirus-affected workers. On Thursday, the state Board of Education acted to adjust school requirements affected by the closure. The requirement that schools meet for 180 days was waived by the board. This means that districts don’t have to make up days lost because of coronavirus closings. State Superintendent Carey Wright had earlier called for the cancellation of testing requirements for the 2019-20 school years. Mississippi’s K-12 students must take 14 tests as required by federal or state law or the state board of education policy. The suspension of federal and state testing has been approved by the board. This allows the Mississippi Department of Education the opportunity to ask for a waiver from U.S. Department of Education in order to waive federal accountability and testing requirements. Districts won’t be awarded new A-F ratings for this school year, as students have not taken the exams that determine these scores. The current ratings of districts will be carried over to the 2020-2021 school years. Wright stated that this year is considered safe. Jason Dean, the board chair, stated that “school buildings are closed to the general public.” Jason Dean, chair of the board, stated that “school buildings are closed to general public.” However, Dean stressed that it was up to each district to decide whether teachers should report to schools buildings. He encouraged them to adhere to the guidelines of the state health officer which prohibits meetings with more than 10 people. Nathan Oakley, chief academic officer, said that the department does not require districts to use distance learning as Institutions for Higher Learning did for universities and colleges last week. Oakley stated that it is not as easy as saying that we are moving from face-to-face content delivery to an internet product. Oakley stated that districts must be aware of the challenges in getting technology and internet access to students. Some school districts have already begun to develop learning strategies. The Clinton Public School District sent out a packet earlier this week with information about how to send families two weeks worth of educational materials, directions to pick up an iPad and information about where to find free lunches. Private sector assistance may also be available to schools. C Spire, which announced Monday that it was working with schools in order to provide wireless data free of charge for students, said Monday. The delivery method for instruction in most schools is unclear, but the board stated that learning must continue. Dean stated that school will only be different for a minimum of a month. “School will continue for (465, 913) children in Mississippi schools.” [Click Here to access Mississippi Today’s COVID-19 Resource Portal. ]