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Local School Districts Face New Challenges in Response to COVID-19

In the first few months of 2020, COVID-19 has successfully disrupted the world.

As businesses are closing and more people begin working from home, one of the largest transitions during this pandemic has been the transition for education.

Schools across America, from Kindergarten to graduate programs, have figured out how to continue education online. In early March, Mississippi schools were ordered to close to combat COVID-19 spreading. This left 487,018 students across Mississippi to learn from home. Lafayette County had a little over two weeks to figure out their plans moving forward.

In Oxford, both Oxford School District and Lafayette County School District developed plans to continue education despite school closures.

“It has been a terribly challenging few weeks. We researched and created an online platform for K-12 students in a matter of days,” OSD superintendent, Brian Harvey said. “Normally, people would do that in a year or two, but we did not have that option.”

Both districts had different challenges to overcome in their quick transition, the main one being how students who did not have devices were going to learn.

“We worked around the clock over the last week to hand out about 1600 devices from our classrooms to students who needed laptops to continue school,” Harvey said of OSD.

“Since we did not have resources to hand devices out to students, we had to accommodate students without devices or internet in our online plan,” said McNeil Stanford, Technology Coordinator for Lafayette County School District. “We decided to use an online database that had the students’ work in folders that had both online work and printable packets for those students who do not have devices. They can pick these packets up with us or print them wherever is most convenient for them.”

Both Oxford and Lafayette County school districts have their own website sources to help families navigate these changes.

According to Oxford High School history teacher Mylene Cromwell, the transition for teachers and students has been generally smooth.

“My classroom already used Schoology (OSD’s online database), so we had very little obstacles in continuing with what my students knew well,” Cromwell said.

Other families have had some difficulties figuring out this new change.

“It has been difficult to figure out how exactly we turn everything in and what is due when,” Mother of Lafayette students Pam Smith said. “We are mainly concerned with these minor inconveniences in my household.”

As this major change in education is taking place, leaders are making large decisions around the clock.

“It is not perfect, but we are working hard around the clock to fix our mistakes and help students troubleshoot. We do not want to create more stress, we want to alleviate the stress,” Harvey said. “If it is one thing we want to communicate, it’s ‘It is gonna be okay.’ We do not need to get every single little thing done. The main thing is to show that we care about our students and our families.”

These major changes have caused countless employees across the two districts to work together and accomplish the feat of online school.

“When this started, we knew we were going to make decisions based on three things: our students and families, our employees, and our community. Since our generation hasn’t seen anything like this, it would be easy to panic but we have repeated over and over to our leadership, we are going to get out of this,” Harvey said. “At the end of the day, as a leader of this community, we want to provide hope: this is going to be over and we will get through this together.”

By Anne Florence Brown | Special to the Oxford Eagle