Phase three of Greenville Public School District’s Destination Safe Re-Entry was denied the green light as the Board of Trustees voted 3 to 1 in opposition of the recommendation at their regular Tuesday meeting.
Trustee Emanuel Edmonds was absent for the voting of the decision, while board president Jan Vaughn and trustees Antoinette Williams and Dr. Oliver Johnson voted against the re-entry.
Dr. Doris Thompson voted in favor of the re-entry.
Superintendent Dr. Debra Dace said that employing Destination Safe Re-Entry, though it comes at the latter part of the school year, would allow the administration to gain a sense of what could be expected in the fall.
Questions about preparedness and assurances of safety were raised among the board of trustees along with concerns as to whether students would be mentally equipped for a restart at this juncture of the year.
“For the most part, we were already prepared for students to return to school,” Dace said, noting that upon re-entry, Fridays would potentially be designated for virtual learning and a limited number of students in order to thoroughly deep clean and sanitize the campuses.
Board president Jan Vaughn pointed out there were only about six weeks left in the academic year and asked if the information about re-entry had been shared with the community and parents.
“Have you assured them that it’s really safe for re-entry because it is a concern with some of the presentations that were made, and even some of the buildings, are they safe?” she asked.
“Any parent that is concerned will have the option to remain virtual, at this time they will not have to provide a doctor’s excuse or anything. But for those parents who choose to send their student they can do so,” Dace responded.
She added that she and the administration have been softly notifying parents about the proposed April 6 start date pending board approval, but no definitive information had been shared with parents.
Had the re-entry been approved, parents and community members would have had the opportunity to ask any questions and discuss the re-entry plans with Dace via a virtual meeting she will host on Thursday, “Dialogue with Dr. Dace.”
Dace also pointed out that students have already been reporting to campus for testing purposes, so parents have an idea of what to expect upon the return to teaching and learning and campus.
“Right now they’re just testing as we prepare for testing for the state department,” she said. “Testing is required and the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) strongly encourages that students are on campus for testing.”
Dace informed the board that dividers for every student had been purchased and they would be seated six feet apart inside the classrooms.
Thompson asked how many students per classroom would be housed.
Dace responded, “10 to 12.”
She said should any unforeseen circumstances occur, whether they be due to inclement weather or otherwise, students could revert back to virtual schooling.
“At some point, we want to make sure number one, we get ready for the fall. And we don’t want to get ready for the fall in August,” Dace said. “So this is the time we’re going to use to make sure we’re working out all the kinks that need to be worked out because our students have been out a long time and we want to give them an opportunity to come in, the teachers as well as the administrators.”
She highlighted that uniforms would not have been required, but encouraged.
“This is just an opportunity for our children to get back in. We have a plan. Our schools are ready and prepared, our administrators and teachers are ready to receive children,” Dace said.
Vaughn suggested foregoing the five or six weeks left in the school year as it would give the administration and staff more time to plan and be ready for students on Aug. 6.
“When you bring them back in, you can see what the problems may potentially be and those kinks can be worked out,” Dace responded. “Now is the time to make sure we’re ready for the fall. We want our children to be in school, we have students who are failing and we want to provide them some additional support.”
Williams moved to approve Destination Safe Re-Entry and Thompson seconded the motion, which was followed by the 3 to 1 outcome opposing students’ return to the classroom.