Virtual Learning Option FAQs

  • Jackson Public Schools held a Special Board Meeting on August 24, 2021, to communicate our plans to provide a virtual learning option to scholars in grades pre-K-6. The questions received by parents following that meeting have been incorporated below. The items are divided into three categories as follows:


    VIRTUAL LEARNING PROCESS


    Why just Pre-K-6th grade students?

    We are offering families with a pre-K through 6th-grade scholar a virtual instructional option because these students are currently ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Children 12 and older are eligible for the vaccine.


    Will my child be able to retain his/her current teacher if I switch to virtual learning?

    We cannot guarantee that your child will be able to retain their current teacher if you switch to virtual learning. Classroom placement decisions will be based on the number of families at each school who select the virtual option.


    When will virtual learning begin and end?

    We are planning to begin virtual learning on Thursday, September 2, 2021. We anticipate this option being available to pre-K-6th grade scholars through the end of the first semester (December 21, 2021).


    How do I change my learning option?

    Families who wish to change their scholar’s learning option to virtual will need to complete a two-question survey indicating their desire to switch to virtual instruction and whether or not they will participate in the school lunch program. Families who do not wish to change their option do not need to take any action and will remain in in-person learning. The survey will open on Wednesday, August 25, 2021.


    In-person instruction is working for my family. Can I continue?

    Yes, we will continue to offer in-person instruction for all grade levels (pre-K-12).


    What is driving this change in the Return to Learn plan?

    We are offering this virtual option in response to the rise in COVID-19 rates locally and the revised guidance from the Mississippi Department of Education.


    Will teachers be teaching virtual and in-person students at the same time?

    We are working to limit the use of simulcasting where teachers instruct in-person and virtual scholars at the same time. We plan to assign teachers to teach either virtual classes/instructional blocks exclusively or in-person classes/instructional blocks exclusively.


    How will the needs of students with special needs be met within the virtual environment?

    Students with special needs will continue to receive instructional supports that meet the requirements of their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Some related services may need to occur in person.


    What is the schedule for virtual learning?

    The District will provide a full day of virtual instruction. The District follows Mississippi Department of Education guidelines which require at least 330 minutes of live instruction. Live instruction is teaching that occurs during the school day with a teacher (synchronous).


    Is virtual learning an option for students 12 or older?

    Virtual learning is not currently a primary instructional option for students in grades 7-12. Students needing to temporarily quarantine due to a documented COVID-19 exposure may be instructed virtually during their quarantine period.


    What are the requirements for making the shift to virtual learning?

    Parent/guardian’s responsibilities are as follows:

    1. In the event that a family selects online learning, they will sign a commitment that acknowledges receipt and acceptance of this board policy IAAA - Distance/Online Learning;
    2. The family will provide reliable internet connectivity in their home or indicate the need for support with connectivity to their child’s school; 
    3. The family will ensure the student’s regular attendance throughout the full instructional day; 
    4. The family will ensure the student’s compliance with the policies and procedures outlined within the Student Code of Conduct; 
    5. The family will ensure the student’s attendance on campus to meet course requirements, state assessments, and District interim assessments;
    6. Any other responsibilities approved by the Board or the Superintendent.

    How will attendance be taken during virtual learning?

    The initial attendance for students will be taken by the teacher during the homeroom block. Teachers will code attendance in the system indicating any absences. Teachers may also take attendance during each class period to ensure that students are present and actively engaged during instructional time.


    When will my child receive a device and instructional materials?

    The District will set up the device and instructional material pick-up dates during the week of August 30th. If you have not returned your device from last year or the device has been damaged, it must be returned or a deposit paid before a new device will be issued.


    Will the District assist me with internet connectivity?

    The District has a limited number of wireless hotspots that will be offered to families without internet connectivity.


    Can virtual learning scholars participate in in-person field trips, afterschool programming, and/or athletics?

    Virtual learning scholars are not eligible to participate in in-person field trips, afterschool programming, or athletics.


    MDE also allows for the hybrid model to decrease the number of students in the classroom and school at one time. Why not allow middle and high school students to learn on a hybrid schedule?

    While we recognize that this is an option, we’ve found the hybrid model to be less effective instructionally, and challenging for families to support on a consistent basis. We encourage all JPS staff and scholars who are eligible to be vaccinated to do so.


    When will JPS host the next vaccination events? Where can my scholar be vaccinated?

    The next opportunity for vaccinations will be during the week of August 31-September 3, 2021. Second dosages will be administered to students at the 7 high schools during this time. Other staff and students will have an opportunity to receive their first dosage as well. Scholars may be vaccinated at their local pharmacies (i.e. Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, Wal-Mart) as well as healthcare providers.


    My child is too young to be home alone and I have to work. Can my 7th grader be virtual and be home with my 4th grader?

    Virtual learning is only available to scholars in prekindergarten through sixth grades at this time. Families who select this option should ensure that their young scholar remains in the supervision of a responsible adult.


    What happens after the first semester? Are we back where we started if the MDE does not extend?

    Just as MDE has indicated, we will continue to monitor our COVID data and determine if virtual learning options for our pre-K-6th grade scholars are still needed and allowable. Our decisions will be informed by the data about whether to extend the virtual option beyond the first semester which ends December 17, 2021.


    Will virtual learning scholars have access to school meals?

    Child Nutrition will offer a pick-up service to virtual scholars beginning Wednesday, September 1. JPS Child Nutrition will provide five breakfasts and five lunches for virtual scholars. Families will be able to pick up these meals each Wednesday between 4-6 p.m. at Kirksey Middle School, located at 5677 Highland Drive in north Jackson, and Bates Elementary, located at 3180 McDowell Road Ext. in south Jackson. Meals are for school days only and will consist of non-perishable items. Families with scholars at multiple school sites may pick up their meals from one school site with their MSIS number (Mississippi Student Identification number).


    How will virtual scholars participate in mandatory state and interim assessments?

    The Mississippi Department of Education has several required assessments and virtual learners are not exempt from participation in these exams. Virtual scholars may be called back to their home schools in order to participate in mandatory state assessments and interim assessments. Schools will inform parents and families of these required assessment date windows and will practice social distancing to ensure safety during testing.


    What will virtual learning this semester look like if it will not be like it was previously? 

    One of the primary changes we are implementing is identifying dedicated teachers or instructional blocks for virtual learning rather than simulcasting instruction, a method where teachers instruct both in-person and virtual scholars at the same time. We anticipate that this shift will be more supportive of both scholars and teachers.


    Can virtual students at APAC have an option to come to participate in their arts class in person? 

    No, scholars who select a virtual instructional model may not attend elective courses in person.


    If we go to virtual, will there be an Open Doors online class?

    Yes, Open Doors gifted programming will be offered virtually.


    Will there be accommodations made for JPS employees who are also parents, if they decide that virtual learning is the best option for their pre-K-6th grade scholars?

    JPS employees who select in-person instruction for their scholars will need to make alternate arrangements for their children’s care and supervision. Virtual instruction will be provided by our teachers at the school site rather than remotely from their homes.


    How will students enrolled in Physical Education attend this class virtually?

    Students enrolled in Physical Education will receive this class virtually. Our teachers will modify their classroom instruction as they did last year. For example, students will engage in at-home exercises that can be viewed over camera (including the Presidential Fitness Challenge). Health education is also delivered virtually.


    Is it possible to reconsider learning options quarter by quarter rather than the entire semester? The goal is in-person learning, and should there be a shift in the numbers, it would be nice to allow scholars to return for the second quarter rather than waiting until the next semester.

    We will continue to evaluate the COVID data locally to assess whether or not a pivot will be necessary. 


    Why is it that the upper grades can’t do virtual learning? 

    We are offering a virtual option for our prekindergarten through sixth-grade scholars because these students are currently ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Scholars in grades 7-12 are eligible for, and strongly encouraged to receive, the COVID-19 vaccination.


    Can special arrangements be made for those scholars with immune deficiencies? 

    General education students requiring special educational arrangements due to health ailments may seek a 504 Plan. This process begins at the school level. Requests should be made to the school administration and/or school interventionist.


    What’s the plan for high school students who have to stay home to keep/ monitor their PK-6 siblings? Will absences be excused?

    Virtual instruction is not an option for JPS scholars in grades 7-12. Students who fail to attend school will be marked absent. Children learning virtually should remain within the care and supervision of a responsible adult.


    What accountability measures exist to identify which students have received devices?

    Device and instructional material distribution events occurred at each elementary and middle school on Tuesday, August 31, and Wednesday, September 1, for virtual scholars.


    What forms of accountability does the District have for school administrators and teachers’ needs to be met for online learning?

    Each virtual teacher will be sharing their zoom links with principals and assistant superintendents. They will receive training on how to implement best practices in a virtual classroom. The teachers will instruct from the school sites and be observed regularly in the virtual environment by several academic coaches, lead teachers, and administrators to ensure accountability. The scholars will still test in person as well as complete assignments for grades.


    How is the District connecting our community to local and state resources in order to support safe, online learning? 

    The District has previously held parent workshops on internet safety and the use of online learning tools. Parents for Public Schools and District staff conducted these sessions. Staff can work together to make these presentations available as a refresher course.


    What data regarding the pandemic and feedback from concerned parties (employees, students, and families) are being considered to make this decision? 

    Data from national, state, and local health entities, as well as anecdotal feedback from stakeholders, has been used in making this decision. Data informs us that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in persons under the age of 18 have increased due to the Delta variant. This strain accounts for 93% of new COVID-19 cases. Stakeholders expressed the desire to have an instructional option for younger scholars who are not yet eligible for the vaccination.


    Although I am concerned about the covid virus. I am more concerned about the transportation issues. Buses are late or don't come at all. So why not virtual for all students since this (buses) is a big problem?

    While scholars were still registering in large numbers at schools, buses were running irregular schedules because of the last-minute changes.  Since the first week of school, buses have been monitored to ensure that they stay on schedule.  We are still attempting to alleviate some of the longest bus routes to shorten the time students are on buses, but if you experience issues with buses being on time, please contact Derick Williams, Executive Director of Transportation.


    What about having proper PPE? How are they keeping our schools and classrooms cleaned properly? It is a task to keep your house clean, so what are you doing to ensure proper cleaning methods?

    As stated in our Return to Learn Plan, individual classrooms and common areas are being disinfected on a daily basis. Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and disinfectant sprays are available for classroom use as well. Restrooms are being restocked and disinfected on a set schedule throughout the day, all in an effort to maintain a safe and healthy environment for our scholars, teachers, and staff.


     

    IN-PERSON LEARNING SAFETY


    What are the protocols in the lunchroom and why is safe distancing not being enforced there? For the students who will continue in-person learning, can a stricter protocol be put in place in the lunchroom or all lunches be served in the classrooms? 

    Schools are following safety protocols in the lunchroom. Additionally, to decrease the number of scholars in the lunchroom at the same time, some scholars are eating their lunch in the classrooms. Each school has created a safety plan that meets the safety needs of the schools during the lunch block.


    There has been some concern that social distancing has not consistently been observed, for example during lunch when masks are worn and scholars are shoulder to shoulder. When inquiring why, the response was there was no room. What is being done to rectify the inability to follow set guidelines?

    CDC guidance states that schools should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement.  CDC recommends layering multiple prevention strategies when physical distancing of at least three feet is not possible at all times. Some of these strategies include consistent and correct mask use, ventilation, hand-washing, and respiratory etiquette, contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfection.


    How will this solution relieve teachers who have heavy class loads with 20 to 30 students? They are not able to socially distance themselves?

    CDC guidance states that schools should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement. CDC recommends layering multiple prevention strategies when physical distancing of at least three feet is not possible at all times. Some of these strategies include consistent and correct mask use, ventilation, hand-washing, and respiratory etiquette, contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfection.

    Additionally, classrooms have been set up to allow spacing at three feet of separation wherever possible. Seating charts are provided to ensure that students routinely occupy the same seating so that contact tracing can be consistent within a particular learning space.  Masking is enforced in the classroom and additional supplies such as disinfectant wipes, disinfectant sprays, and hand sanitizer are available in each classroom.


    And what will be the options for social distancing in the schools?

    CDC guidance states that schools should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement.  CDC recommends layering multiple prevention strategies when physical distancing of at least three feet is not possible at all times. Some of these strategies include consistent and correct mask use, ventilation, hand-washing, and respiratory etiquette, contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfection.

    Additionally, classrooms have been set up to allow spacing at three feet of separation wherever possible.  Seating charts are provided to ensure that students routinely occupy the same seating so that contact tracing can be consistent within a particular learning space.  Masking is enforced in the classroom and additional supplies such as disinfectant wipes, disinfectant sprays, and hand sanitizer are available in each classroom.


    Is it possible to limit the amount of movement throughout school buildings?

    Yes. Many schools already have plans in place to limit movement. Schools have restroom schedules, staggered lunch schedules, or lunch is being delivered to the halls, as well as rotations that involve students moving by team or individual classes.


    Will the mask mandate extend to carpool as well?

    Yes. Students are required to properly wear masks during carpool arrival and dismissal.


    How can the District account for and ensure effective communication between administration, teachers, and parents as well as enforcement of safety policies at schools? 

    The District has an established protocol for communicating COVID-19 cases and related issues to Central Office staff, school staff, and parents. Individuals are notified in a timely manner so that the best decision may be made regarding quarantine, classroom instruction, cleaning, and closure if necessary.

    VACCINES, TESTING & QUARANTINE


    Will vaccines be mandatory for all JPS staff?

    The administration is currently working on a new policy to present to the Board of Trustees which will require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for JPS staff. Staff members who decline to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, either for religious or personal reasons, will submit to weekly COVID-19 screening. The District will cover the cost of this screening.


    Will there be weekly testing for those non-athletes that are not vaccinated?

    No, there is not a plan to extend weekly COVID testing to scholar non-athletes or non-participants in co-curricular activities.


    Why were COVID tests not given before students came into the schools? 

    School-based testing is a detailed process that requires parental consent, proper resources, and staff to perform the test and collect samples. Phase II of screening a massive number of asymptomatic, unvaccinated students with a vendor has recently become available from the Mississippi State Department of Health.


    Will the District provide sick days for teachers if they get COVID?

    Teachers and other JPS staff members are strongly encouraged to get a COVID vaccination. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act which provided additional and temporary emergency leave for COVID quarantine has expired. At this time, JPS team members who contract COVID-19 will need to utilize their sick leave.


    There have been several teachers who have contracted COVID from students and have had to quarantine using their own personal time. Will other provisions be made? 

    The District does not have data that suggests that teachers have contracted COVID from students, just as we do not have data that suggests that students have contracted COVID from teachers. As such, any positive COVID results with teachers will require teachers to quarantine and use their own personal time. Further considerations to this policy will be based on policy changes or federal regulations.

Last Modified on September 2, 2021