Mississippi school leaders plan for unknowns of fall semester


DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — There are still a lot of unknowns on how school systems will handle returning to class this fall.

But local superintendents are getting ready.

“Right now, we are looking at all types of contingency plans for the fall semester,” DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Cory Uselton said. “There is just so much uncertainty right now.”

Uselton said details of the fall semester are still being worked out.

The school district will need to find a way to fit almost 35,000 students into school cafeterias.

“There may have to be a different type of staggered lunch schedule, where less students are in the cafeteria at one time,” Uselton said. “There is also the possibility our students could be eating lunch in the classroom if we have to.”

The DeSoto County school system is the largest school system in Mississippi, and a large number of those students ride to school on school buses, presenting another issue.

“A lot of that will depend on what guidance we receive from the state level,” Uselton said. “If there is any kind of staggered schedule or anything that is mandated, where social distancing would be required with less students in the building at one time.”

He said it’s all being thought about, even having a health care expert at every school.

Uselton said plans are also being made in the event distance learning must continue into the fall.

“We just ask for parents to be patient at this time as we work through the process,” he said.

In North Panola Schools, superintendent Cedric Richardson is planning for more long distance learning, just in case.

“There are a lot of things we have to consider because we are a rural district, so we have to consider how we are going to make sure more of our students have internet access,” Richardson said. “We are looking at Chromebooks, Macbooks, iPads.”

Superintendents are looking to the state in the face of uncertainty.

“If there is no vaccination, and right now we are hearing there may be no vaccination prior to January at the earliest, and we have to plan for online learning and distance learning for the fall,” Richardson said.


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