Meridian schools delay return to campus for 2020-21 school year

Amid concerns about a local increase in COVID-19 cases, Meridian public school students won't return to campus until September.

Board members on Friday approved the change following a recommendation from Superintendent Amy Carter.

Schools across the country were closed in March as the COVID-19 pandemic spread.

“The safety of our staff and students remain my top priority,” Carter said in a news release. “I didn’t want to jeopardize their safety by bringing them back on campus while cases continued to increase.”

All students will begin the year on Aug. 10 using online learning. The earliest students would return to campus for in-person instruction would be Sept. 8, the district said.

The district will provide devices to all students, with K-5 students using i-Pads and 6-12th graders using Chromebooks. Elementary students will use Google Classroom and high school students will use Canvas, said Melody Craft, director of curriculum and instruction for secondary education.

Because the district updated its curriculum before the pandemic, students can complete the same classroom work online or with a downloadable app, she said.

Craft said the district is looking at expanding Wi-Fi hotspots at various school campuses, working with community partners and setting up hotspots on buses.

The district plans to post videos online to show parents how to use virtual learning at home.

Carter said the district is working on a meal delivery schedule for students, and the district will use its automated messaging system, social media and website to release additional information.

Extracurricular activities, which have been taking place over the summer, will continue in keeping with the health and safety guidelines already in place, the district said.

About 75 percent of the district's 5200 students have enrolled for the upcoming year, officials said.

Under the Lauderdale County School District's reopening plan, after Labor Day, students will attend classes five days a week, with some days involving hybrid or distance learning. Schools will start on Aug. 10 with a staggered schedule.

That plan isn't expected to change, the district said.

Budget approved

In other business, the board approved a budget of $62.45 million for the 2020-2021 school year.

The budget is about $1.05 million less than the 2019-2020 budget of $63.52 million.

The budget includes funds from local, state and federal sources as well as 16th section revenue. Concerning local revenues, which include property taxes, the district expects to see $133,958 less than last year.

State revenue is expected to decrease by $488,732, while federal money is expected to be $432,194 less than last year. 16th section revenue is expected to remain stable in the budget.

Expenditures, which include instruction, student support, food services and transportation, are expected to be about $67.7 million.

Chief Financial Officer Carolyn Davis said there was a decrease in instructional expenses from $33,250,888 to $31,994,614 because of the new curriculum the district adopted.

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