Uncertainty clouds reopening school
By Bob Arnold
There's a lot of uncertainty as the beginning of a new school term at Wesson Attendance Center (WAC) nears on August 7. Will students return to classrooms, face distance learning alternatives or both? Will tentatively scheduled events on the normal school calendar happen as planned or even at all -- teachers meetings, parent and student orientations, yearbook photography, the ordering process for graduation invitations, rings and pictures; ceremonies, beauty pageants, special assemblies, testing, awards programs? Will sports teams compete, and will there be crowds on hand to watch them if they do?
The only certainty now is that in some way school will start on August 7. But even if it starts one way, it may change as the school term unfolds.
"There continues to be questions and concerns related to the reopening of schools in August," says Rickey Clopton, Copiah County School District Superintendent of Education. "While we are in the business of educating, our first priority is the safety of our students and our employees."
Based on information-gathering from parents, employees, community members, administrators, state leaders, the Mississippi Department of Education and medical professionals, restart plans are in the works with safety procedures at the forefront, Clopton says. One of three scenarios will emerge by August 7:
• A traditional plan, which Clopton says the School District would prefer. It would feature a relatively normal face-to-face classroom situation with increased safety precautions -- hand sanitizer and hand washing availability, cleaning of high frequency areas, limited visitation to campus that would facilitate transition to other kinds of school operations if required. Implementation of this place will be predicated on guidance from health officials and the Governor.
• A virtual learning (full distance learning) plan in which students would not return to classrooms, but rather utilize distance learning materials. media and learning platforms. An executive order by the Governor to close schools would require this approach.
• A hybrid plan combining distance learning and face-to-face instruction with increased safety and disinfecting measures. Limits to the number of people in groups and social distancing requirements would necessitate this approach.
The District will maintain communications with parents through its web site (www.copiah.ms), related social media, regular mail and print and electronic media (i.e., Wesson News) on developing plans and actions required by parents and students related to transportation, acquisition of needed classroom supplies and other things required for a normal school situation or for distance learning platforms and materials under virtual learning or hybrid plans.
One pressing need that will arise in the near future is registration of new and incoming students. Registration will be online this year for the first time, and parents and guardians will receive log-in information for accounts and instructions on completing back-to-school paperwork in the online format.
All WAC students must reside within its district or have been released by their local school board and approved by the Copiah County School Board. Residency means a student resides full time, days and nights throughout the week and on weekends, at a place of abode within the limits of the school district. Students must reside full time at the address used for registration. Further, students must live with a natural parent or have legal documentation on file with WAC that they are under the guardianship of someone.
For this year only, the Mississippi State Department of Education has waived the requirement that returning students who have not moved since the fall 2019 registration at WAC must provide new copies of residency documents. For those who have not moved, parents will sign an online form stating that they live in the same location.
Students who have a new address and any new students must upload three proofs of residency (real estate documentation, utility bill or deposit receipt, official identification). Incoming students who did not attend WAC last year must also provide birth certificates, Social Security Cards, copies of Mississippi Immunization Form 121, final report cards from previous schools. Legal guardians will be required to provide additional documents.
Assuming students return to a traditional classroom setting on August 7, several related events are tentatively scheduled to prepare parents, students and teachers for the year ahead:
• Teachers return to WAC for a staff development program on August 3, 4, 5 and 6 that will orient them to their working environment, review their job landscape and expectations and give them direction to perform effectively. Faculty and staff will get their ID badges starting at 8 a.m. on August 3.
• From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on August 4, parents and students will learn more about WAC. At an open house, students, parents and teachers will meet informally on the elementary school program and a Parent Teachers Organization (PTO) meeting will show parents how they can sustain their relationship with WAC throughout the school year. A special orientation for incoming seventh graders will also cover the transition for both students and their parents -- one with big changes, such as storing books in lockers and going to different classes and teachers when the bell rings.
• Meet the Cobras on August 13 will introduce students to WAC's athletic program at the Old Gym. Players and coaches will make presentations in a rally-like atmosphere.
WAC staff and personnel are accessible by telephone, fax and email:
• Principal Tommy Clopton. firstname.lastname@example.org
• High School Principal Dr. Barbara Roberson. email@example.com
• Elementary School Principal Marilyn Phillips. firstname.lastname@example.org
• Guidance Counselor Stephanie Allen
• Elementary Counselor Ginger Heard
• High School Secretary Gwen Shannon
• Elementary Secretary Aretha Butler
• Nurse Michelle Berch
• Bookkeeper/Secretary Paula Smith & Jacque McCormick (also Records Clerk)
• High School telephone: (601) 643-2221/2222
• Elementary telephone: (601) 643-2295
• Fax: (601) 643-2458 or (601) 643-5838