The Lauderdale County School District decided to table an amended version of the Return to Learn Plan for the 2020-2021 school year because of concerned parents.
The board decided to provide a time for parents to express their concerns about reopening plans during a special called board meeting next week.
According to district policy KL-R, the school board is open to suggestions, but people have to complete a form five days before the next scheduled meeting. A special called board meeting is scheduled at 5 p.m. July 29 at the Lauderdale County District Central Office at 301 46th Court.
Cynthia Crouch, a parent of four children in the district, said she was glad the board is providing parents a time to speak.
"I think it is a step in the right direction to hear parents out before the board approves a final plan," she said.
Crouch said she was made aware of board policy on public comment Wednesday afternoon before the meeting and was not expecting to speak. Crouch was surprised when one board member was willing to give her the opportunity to speak.
"It was a shock to me that (board member) Dusty (Culpepper) would allow me to speak in any way," she said.
Crouch said even though the board discussed and approved an updated calendar, she still has concerns. Crouch said parents should have other options that would allow students to have online learning without a medical excuse.
Superintendent John-Mark Cain spoke about providing blended options for students who have a family member who has a compromised immune system. It must include a physician statement.
"As conditions change we have to change," he said. "
The addition to the plan was tabled after the board had disagreements on letting Crouch express her concerns on the district’s reopening plans.
"I know that this young lady is passionate, but I know there are other parents that are passionate and I want to allow them an opportunity to express their concerns," Kelvin Jackson, the board president said.
Culpepper raised a motion that would have allowed Crouch to speak to the board, but it was not approved. Culpepper said he raised the motion because most parents are unaware of the policy, school will be starting soon and he was concerned about teachers and administrators in a bind, when schools start.
"I think the timeliness of the decision needed to be made last night," Culpepper said. " I just wanted to give them (teachers and administrators) time to prepare for the start of the new school year."
The district is planning to have a traditional schedule for the school year by having a soft opening, which means 50 percent of students will be brought in on several days before all students will be admitted together.
Aug. 5 will be the first day for students with last names beginning with A-K and Aug. 6 will be the first day for students with last names beginning with L-Z.
Aug. 7 is a professional development day for teachers. Students will not attend school that day.
Students with last names beginning with A-K will attend on Aug. 10 and students with last names beginning with L-Z will attend on Aug. 11.
All students return on Aug. 12 and 13. Aug. 14 will be a virtual learning day.
After Aug. 14, students and staff will follow a traditional schedule, with students attending classes five days a week.
According to the plan, students wanting to take courses online must provide medical documentation for not being able to attend in person.
The board also approved an updated 2020-2021 academic calendar.
Ken Hardy, director of curriculum, assessment and accountability, said the new calendar includes hybrid and additional distance learning days. The calendar also includes additional professional development days for teachers.
The schedule will have a total of 12 hybrid days and 10 distance learning days. The students will be released at 1 p.m. on hybrid days.
Aug. 5, 6, 10 and 11 will be AB days.
Aug. 19 and 26, Oct. 14 through 16, Nov. 4,19, 20 and March 11 and 12 will be additional distance learning days.
Sept. 2, and 23, Nov. 18, Dec. 9, Jan. 13, and 27, Feb. 24, March 10, April 14 and 28 and May 12 will be hybrid days.
Graduations are scheduled to be held May 17 through 21.
Culpepper said some changes that were made to the school Return to Learn policy were based on concerns from Crouch and other parents in the district.
In other business:
Marie Roberts was announced as the new instructional technologist for the district. Roberts previously worked eight years at Meridian Community College. Her first day on the job will be Aug. 3.
Roberts position will be funded with money the district received in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.