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Oxford and Lafayette School Districts adapting to distance learning

Monday brought a whole new world to students and educators.

Many schools across Mississippi resumed after a two-week spring break, but did so outside of their classrooms. Distance learning has become the new normal, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the week, Oxford School District made sure their students had as many resources as possible, handing out over 2,000 laptops to students in Pre-K through sixth grade.

“The challenge is always about access,” said Oxford assistant superintendent Bradley Roberson. “For us, access is twofold: making sure every child has a device and being sure every child has access to the internet. We’ve had to try to alleviate those issues.”

In an effort to provide as much access as possible, all Oxford School District campuses opened their WiFi for public use. This allows for parents and students to be able to pull into the school’s parking lot and use free internet while working on their assignments in their cars.

Roberson said they pushed back the start of their distance learning to Monday to allow for the teachers to be properly trained in how to digitize the remainder of their curriculum and to get the distance learning platforms fully functional.

“We had to train a lot of people,” Roberson said. “We’re fortunate we’ve got six instructional coaches throughout our district that have the capacity to do that, (who) are well-versed in Zoom, Schoolology and Seesaw to be able to train our staff.”

Lafayette County School District had their own set of challenges when it came to getting their teachers and students ready to begin distance learning this week.

While Oxford has close to a one-to-one ratio when it comes to devices, Lafayette County schools do not have that capability. Teachers have been working to make sure their students have all the class materials they need. Methods have even included mailing materials when necessary.

Mississippi’s State Board of Education announced on Thursday they had suspended key policies for the 2019-20 school year to help manage the impact of extended school closures due to COVID-19.

Current seniors who meet all district and state requirements may graduate this school year, per the MDE. The requirement that students take end-of-year-course assessments in Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History has been suspended for seniors, due to the inability for them to be administered properly.

School districts will also determine a process for awarding a Carnegie unit credit for courses that are incomplete for the current school year. Local school boards have the authority to suspend or amend their graduation policies. Students are required to earn a minimum of 24 Carnegie unites to graduate.

“I knew with what we’re doing and the possibility of where we are and looking at the future and not coming back (this year), I knew they were going to have to make some adjustments to some policies and some regulations in order for us to remote graduate and just go from one school year to the next,” said Lafayette school superintendent Dr. Adam Pugh. “I knew they were going to have to relax some requirements, or none of our kids would move forward.”

All Mississippi public schools are closed through at least April 17 under the order of Governor Tate Reeves.