/Though governor is ‘100 percent committed’ to reopening schools in the fall, teachers have concerns about virtual learning

Though governor is ‘100 percent committed’ to reopening schools in the fall, teachers have concerns about virtual learning

Nonprofit Mississippi News A majority of Mississippi teachers responded to a survey that asked them to explain what they expected from them after schools closed abruptly and switched to online learning. However, many expressed concern about the ability of students to take part in virtual learning in the fall. This was according to a survey that Teach Plus Mississippi conducted in April in collaboration with Mississippi Department of Education. It surveyed nearly 2,500 teachers to determine how they felt about the effects of the pandemic on school closings, virtual learning and reopening of schools. 70% of teachers work in schools that provide low-income education, while the rest teach in middle, high, and elementary schools. The survey found that there is concern over whether school administrators will take appropriate measures to reduce the chance of a new epidemic, including social distancing and cleaning up and disinfecting the building and supplies. “Teachers are also concerned that even with preventive measures, there could still be an outbreak. This would force schools to return to virtual learning. This prediction is in line with the predictions of health officials. Some of Mississippi’s top health officials have urged residents to be vigilant as more cases are confirmed each week. In a Wednesday press conference, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the State Health Officer stated that “We have more virus than ever before and I hate it that our predictions were wrong, but we’re predicting even more in fall.” “So it’s going be worse in fall than it’s now,” Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer, said Wednesday. The department isn’t mandating which option should be chosen by districts. The department sent a message to superintendents on Thursday stating that districts must create a plan that has been approved by their local school boards and posted publicly by July 31. Gov. Gov. School districts face difficult decisions about how to reopen schools with a tight deadline. Some districts plan to mix traditional and virtual instruction, while others allow parents to make the final decision. [Survey] How should Mississippi schools reopen in fall? Desoto County School District is the largest in the state, with 35,000 students. It will offer families the option of either traditional-only or virtual-only return options. The Return To Learn plan states that elementary schools will continue to follow a traditional schedule while secondary schools could move to a hybrid program. The plan includes information about academic, child nutrition and transportation. It also contains guidelines for parents. Cory Uselton, superintendent said that every family is different so we are trying to work together with them. Students have health conditions, and students stay at home with relatives with health issues. We’re just making sure that we meet the needs. August 6 is the first day of school for students. Clarksdale Municipal Schools District Superintendent Joe Nelson stated that they are currently in draft mode with their reopening plans, but are looking towards hybrid and virtual models. Nelson stated that it is difficult to return to traditional due to social distancing and students being transported on buses. “Right now we’re working to create the prerequisites for what that looks like, what we should do, and how that looks. This will require a lot professional development. “We want to be clear about what we are trying to achieve.” A letter was posted to the district’s website explaining that hybrid instruction is in-person instruction with limited students on buses, whereas virtual instruction uses a computer and internet to learn with every student. Access to rural broadband is another barrier to virtual learning in Clarksdale schools, as well as other rural districts throughout the Mississippi Delta. Nelson says that the real problem is how funds will be released for them to implement their plan. He said, “How fast we solve that problem is important for our students in Clarksdale and the Delta.” Recently, the state legislature approved millions of dollars in coronavirus stimulus dollars for Mississippi to be used for digital learning and broadband access. $150 million will go to pay for online learning and technology. A separate $50 million will support K-12 connectivity. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to our Spring Member Drive today.