As COVID-19 cases in schools rise, some schools shift to temporarily hybrid learning model

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:53 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - With tens of thousands of students quarantined in Mississippi due to possible COVID-19 exposure, some school districts have implemented virtual learning in certain schools as an option to help protect students for the first few weeks of the year.

Data released this week from the Mississippi State Department of Health lists 28,990 students quarantined as of August 20.

More than 11,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of this month.

Those numbers have drawn concern from some parents who want virtual options for their children.

“Virtual learning is an option which was used in many cases, as a last resort option,” said Clinton Public Schools Superintendent Andy Schoggin. “I think you’ve seen a lot of our districts in the state have to go to that because of mass scale outbreaks of positive [cases] on their campuses and in their districts.”

Earlier this week, Jackson Public Schools announced it would offer virtual learning as a choice for parents of kids in Pre-K through 6th grade, one of the only school districts in Mississippi offering the option through the entire semester.

Its middle and high schools remain traditional, and they’re not the only districts prioritizing that in-classroom experience.

“I do feel like, you know, our parents do want to be able to continue on-campus teaching and learning,” said Gene Wright, spokesperson for Madison County Schools. “And we want to avoid a situation where we are forced to move to distance learning.”

Administrators say those virtual options take time and effort to implement, especially considering many districts use data on outbreaks within their own schools and state guidance to help decide when to shift.

Schoggin said his district wants to maximize in-person learning with masks and social distancing because he believes virtual learning isn’t as effective, but the district is prepared to offer hybrid learning options if infections climb.

“It’s not something that we would say, come tomorrow, we’re going to make that switch. It requires a lot of internal planning,” Schoggin said. “We’re going to designate what would be virtual, what would be synchronous and/or asynchronous learning. But the thing you can’t replace is that connection. That’s the thing that virtual learning does not offer.”

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