KSD adds more detail to fall school options (video)

By KAREN FIORETTI,

Kosciusko Schools Superintendent Billy Ellzey, Technology Director Wes Carlisle, and medical advisor Dr. Grey Wallace discussed Fall 2020 school plans with members of the school board and community at the board meeting Monday night.

Both in-person and virtual education options will be offered response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those attending school in-person, school hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the elementary schools and 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the junior and high school.

While school leaders believe in-person instruction remains the best method, they said they are offering a virtual option for families who are not comfortable sending their children to school.

In-school instruction

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends in-person school even with the numbers going up,” Wallace said, “because that is what’s best for our children.”

In his presentation, Ellzey said the plans were guided by advice from the CDC, the state health department and a local medical advisory group, including Wallace.

“Our group thinks it is safe to do so (attend school). My child goes to public school and will be there,” Wallace said, noting that waiting for the virus to go away cannot be the litmus test for reopening schools.

“It’s not going to go away. It will still be active when school starts. Fear and staying away is not the right thing to do,” he said, noting that in-person instruction is best for the children.

“It’s better for the kids… socialization, interacting with others, learning to sit in school… the socialization is way more important than the ABCs,” he said.

The district has made a series of adjustments for those attending school in person. They include hiring a school nurse to handle symptomatic children and bus monitors to take student temperatures as children board each day. Staff and students will also have temperatures checked at the school entrances and will receive training in proper hygiene. Anyone registering a temperature over 100 degrees will be sent home and must be fever-free for at least three days before returning.

Once in school, efforts will be made for social distancing and all cafeterias will use disposable trays and utensils.

While school personnel will have to wear masks, students will not be required to do so. Asked about potential exposure of school staff by non-symptomatic students, Wallace said some element of risk does exist.

“There is some risk with that and they have to make the decision for themselves,” said Wallace. “I think it is an acceptable risk with the safety protocols. Details of this policy are on-point.”

Should a student or school staff member test positive, protocols are in place for notifications and other actions, depending upon the specific situation.

Remote learning

Students whose families choose not to send their children to school in the fall, however, can opt for the virtual learning environment.

Carlisle and Kosciusko High School Principal Henry Coats demonstrated Google Classroom, which has already been in use in the district for the past three years. Carlisle noted that familiarity was one of the reasons for selecting it, easing the transition to remote learning for both students and teachers.

While they touted the software as being compatible with almost any computer operating system a student might have available on their own equipment, the district said it will be able to provide a device to any student that requests one. Ellzey noted that the district has about 2,300 students and approximately 2,000 available devices. Internet hot spots may also be made available, as needed, and board Vice Chairman Randy Fuller, who oversees the Oprah Winfrey Boys & Girls Club, said that facility is looking into becoming an internet site for students who may need access.

Whether in-person or virtually, every student will receive the same instruction.

Teachers will pre-record lessons and demonstrations, including worksheets, quizzes and tests, all of which can be pre-programmed to auto-grade. Lessons can have set begin and end times, and both quizzes and tests can be made available for a very limited time to ensure students complete it before answers might otherwise become generally known.

Teachers can also use the pre-recorded lessons within their live classroom, Carlisle said.

Officials say the Google Classroom system’s efficiency and tools will free teachers to focus on students who are not participating as they should be and those who might be struggling with a lesson. If students are not logging in and completing their work as required, teachers will reach out to guardians to get them back on track. If a student has questions about a lesson, they can type it on screen and the teacher will receive a notification to assist the student.

If a teacher requires a student to show their work for a particular lesson, there is a camera option allowing the student to take a photo of their work paper and upload it to the teacher.

“We want to make sure our teachers are teaching our students and interacting with our students,” said Coats.

The Star-Herald has posted many of the plan materials released by the district, including a letter from the Superintendent, the district’s approach to planning for Fall 2020, and employee work procedures. Links to those releases can be found within our preliminary story at https://bit.ly/2WdHb0j.

Additional detailed information on the plan — including an FAQ and a question — can be found on the Kosciusko School District website at http://ksd.k12.ms.us. The district has also just posted a video detailing the plan at https://youtu.be/O1oxfYC4wlM.