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Schools within the Vicksburg Warren School District are set to reopen on schedule

As of right now, the Vicksburg Warren School District will be opening its doors to students on Aug. 7.

But, Superintendent Chad Shealy told members of the district’s Board of Trustees on Thursday evening, what that reopening will look like and what systems will be in place are not yet finalized. A final proposal will be presented to the trustees for their approval at the board’s meeting on June 25.

“We will have a hybrid approach to start. We will have in-person school classes with the appropriate equipment, devices and structures in place,” Shealy said. “What those will be I cannot say today. Our principals are creating those plans and we will submit those independently to you and the public.”

Shealy said over the past few weeks, district officials have been meeting to discuss the best way to reopen schools for the 2020-21 school year and working to adhere to the recommendations handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and the Mississippi Department of Education.

“We know we are going to need multiple options for people to feel comfortable and safe,” Shealy said. “And we are going to take all measures necessary to do that. We believe we can accommodate those needs.”

Those needs Shealy was referring to are the educational needs of students who might not be able to return to the classroom in the fall because of underlying health conditions or concerns by parents who do not yet feel comfortable with their children returning to the classroom.

“Fundamentally, what is best for children is my primary purpose, so whatever is the best for our kids is what I want out there,” Shealy said in regards to the district’s reopening plan. “Several school districts are already coming out with plans. Normally, we are right out front, but we wanted to make sure we have the best information possible in what we are being allowed to do.”

Shealy said the district is also incorporating much of the feedback it received over the past week in a thought exchange that attracted thousands of responses on how the district should reopen schools.

“It was very polarized,” Shealy said. “There were some that said they were ready to come back and others that said they did not feel comfortable with their child coming back just yet.”

Trustee Sally Bullard asked Shealy if the school officials or the board had the ability to change the school calendar at this point to possibly look at removing some of the one-day holidays that are currently included in the first few months of school.

The goal, she said, would be to build up extra days on the calendar if a temporary shutdown was needed if an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs within a school or the district.

Shealy said the board has the ability to change the calendar if and when they see a need to do so.

Bullard specifically cited the Labor Day holiday in September, the Columbus Day holiday in October, and shortening the Thanksgiving holiday.

But, Bullard was tremendously supportive of the decision by the district to reopen schools on schedule.

“I am very proud of you and your team for making these decisions,” Bullard told Shealy. “You have done a phenomenal job in making the decision to open our doors. There are kids who need us and parents who need us.”

Bullard said if schools remained closed that it would be a “tragedy in the making” as some people would be forced to leave the workforce to stay at home with their children, while others would decide to leave their children home alone.

Shealy said even though the district is building a reopening plan that allows for in-person and virtual learning options, there is agreement that in-person education is the best option.

“We are going to be prepared for all the kids to get the best quality of instruction and we know that is directly from a teacher,” Shealy said. “We are poised with a good approach. We will have flexibility in what we do, flexibility in individual schools.”

In addition to the reopening plan being presented Thursday, the board will also be asked to adopt new policies that will detail changes to grading and curriculum requirements for the upcoming school year.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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