March 22, 2020
Let me begin by saying how much we miss all of our 19,500 students. We are concerned for our students’ health and well-being, as well as their families. Although none of us have experienced a pandemic before, the Rankin County family of students, parents, educators, county and community leaders, and all other stakeholders has quickly risen to the occasion, as usual! We would like to thank everyone for your kindness and support, especially our health professionals, truck drivers, grocery store employees, first responders and all other essential operations personnel.
As you know, the Rankin County School District motto is “Great to BEST”. BEST stands for- bringing everyone’s strengths together! That is just what we are doing from afar in order to serve our most important assets- your children! The next few weeks will not be easy. There will be mistakes, problems, and concerns along the way. However, there will be more successes, happiness, hope, laughter, fun, and purpose! We understand many of you are still working and have several children to help, financial concerns, health issues, etc. We are here to patiently support our students and you throughout this challenging time. Please do not stress over the school work via distance learning or printed packets. Frustrations are high due to our circumstances and we don’t want to increase the stress on our families. We are going to do our best to provide schoolwork to keep our students' minds moving forward. But you are the parents and they are with you, so you have control to adjust as needed for your child/children. Again, contact your teacher via email or call the school number and leave a message, if you need help. We also ask for your patience and understanding as we travel this new territory, too. Our teachers and other employees are working long hours from home while dealing with their new, but temporary, normal.
On another note, there are many questions about how extended school closures will affect school life like grades, promotion, graduations and so much more. The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) will evaluate policies and procedures and will make recommendations to the State Board of Education (SBE) at a special-called virtual meeting set for Thursday, March 26th at 10 a.m. The MDE will provide more information and guidance for districts following the March 26th meeting. We will keep you updated as these questions are answered.
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
1. CYBERSAFETY: Sadly in these times, there are bad people that want to take advantage of us in our new "digital" distance classrooms and increased “free” digital time. We must be diligent in ensuring they are not allowed to invade the world of our children. Please discuss cyber safety with your children and monitor them as much as you possibly can. The following is just one of the many online resources available for information on how to protect your children.
2. Governor Tate Reeves issued an Executive Order directing all Mississippi schools to close through April 17, 2020 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus). Governor Reeves said he would relax end-of-year testing requirements and school accountability measures and give the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) maximum flexibility to waive rules.
3. Mississippi State Board of Education (MDE) Actions:
The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted on Thursday, March 19th to suspend all federal and state assessments for the 2019-20 school year and to submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for exemption of applicable federal requirements. (President Trump and the U.S. Department of Education announced that all federal assessments are waived.) As a result of the suspension of federal and state assessments, districts will retain the accountability grade for the 2020-21 school year that they received in the 2019-20 school year.
4. State and federal assessments that are suspended this school year include:
- Pre-K and Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (post-test)
- Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) and MAAP-Alternate English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science – Grades 3-8 and High School
- Third Grade Gate
- U.S. History
- ACT for 11th graders
- English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT)
- Career Planning and Assessment System (CPAS)
5. The SBE voted to allow school districts to forego the requirement of a 180-day school year per state law for school closure due to COVID-19 and school closures.
6. The RCSD will continue to serve Drive Thru/Grab and Go lunches from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. each day at Pelahatchie Elementary, McLaurin Elementary, and Richland Upper Elementary. All children 18 and under and First Responders, in uniform, are free, and adult meals cost $3.50 each. Children must be present in the vehicle to receive a meal according to USDA guidelines.
7. Career and Technical Education (CTE)/Vo-Tech and academic dual credit courses will be required to complete all course assignments online using the Canvas platform as assigned by each instructor. The teacher will follow the syllabus. These requirements are necessary because of the college credit being earned. The student must log in at least once a week in order to be counted for attendance. This is the link from Hinds Community College to help students access their Canvas accounts: https://hindscc.instructure.com/courses/413277.
8. STAGE 1 of THE DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN (TDLP) on Thursday, March 19th and Friday, March 20th consisted of OPTIONAL Social/Emotional activities for those who were interested or needed them. This is a scary time for some of our students. While some are excited about the being out of school, many will be confused, feel isolated, be sad about cancellations of events, sports, etc. and be fearful of the unknown. Please contact our counselors via their email, if we can assist in this area.
9. STAGE 2 of THE DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN (TDLP) begins Monday, March 23, 2020. Please, remember, these lessons are designed to reinforce and enrich student skills while schools are closed. They are NOT meant to add stress to an already very difficult time in our lives. Communicate with your teachers if you have any questions or concerns. We will be patient and give grace throughout this process. See a few reminders below:
- Continue to check your email daily for updates and information. If you have not heard from your teacher/s or have questions, please email them.
- You can also call the school and leave a message for your teacher or the principal. To find email addresses, go to your school’s website via www.rcsd.ms to locate teacher and principal email addresses.
- We are working diligently to meet the needs of all of our students as much as possible during this unusual situation. This includes those students with an IEP and English Language learners.
- If you do not have access to the Internet, there will be lesson packets outside of every school each day. Students will need to be prepared to submit the paper distance learning lesson assignments, as applicable, when school resumes.
In closing, we wish you and your family the very best. Please follow the CDC guidelines using social distancing and hygiene protocol. Remember, life will get back to normal eventually, but hopefully, after this experience is over, our lives will include more appreciation of our blessings and our freedoms. In Governor Reeves’ words, “This is not a time for us to panic. This is a time for us to come together (as Rankin Countians), as Mississippians, as Americans. We are all in this fight together.” I am confident Rankin County will bring everyone’s strengths together (BEST) as we move #RankinForward!
Sue Townsend, Ph.D.
Rankin County School District
First, let me share that the RCSD School Board of Trustees and the Administration’s most important goal is to help keep our students and employees safe and healthy during these uncertain times. There have been and will be many important decisions to make so we are continuing to focus on our strategic plan which always begins with asking ourselves two questions: - Are we doing what is right for our students? Are we doing what’s right for our employees? While not all will agree with every decision we must make, please know that our hearts and minds are on our most important assets- our students and employees! We are here for support even though we are not within the walls of our schools.
The RCSD is working toward transitioning to distance learning opportunities for our students. Our goal is to do this slow and steady so we can minimize as much stress as possible on the part of our students, parents, and teachers. There will be mistakes and bumps in the road along the way as we travel this new territory. It will require patience and understanding on everyone’s part. We will do this in 3 Stages:
First Stage: THESE ARE OPTIONAL ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES. On Thursday, March 19, 2020 and Friday, March 20, 2020, we will send out "Social/Emotional" mental health type activities for all students K-12. (There is a plan for those who do not have technology access.)
Second Stage: March 23-27, 2020. Planned Enrichment Activities using Resource Tools created by our curriculum department. NO NEW MATERIAL WILL BE TAUGHT.
Third Stage: IF NEEDED - This depends on the length of school closures. Lessons will be created and sent to students/parents by teachers with curriculum department support.
DUAL CREDIT EXCEPTION: Hinds Community College dual credit students (face to face or online) must continue with their Hind’s assignments through the Hinds Canvas platform. They will continue to follow their syllabus. Due to this being a college course the pacing must remain the same to obtain college credit. The student must log in at least once a week in order to be counted for attendance.
Our counselors feel it is important for our students to have help to cope with the Coronavirus COVID19 situation that is temporarily changing their lives and schedules.
So, again, we will begin with Social-Emotional Mental Health Enrichment/Optional Activities to support our students. These activities are for Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20. This will serve a two-fold purpose. It will also help parents and school personnel know whether you are receiving our emails/texts/notices related to distance learning activities and for you to determine your technology capabilities.
A SWIFT K-12 email/text has been sent to all parents/guardians with the activity links. Those links contain the social-emotional enrichment activities, which will begin our distance learning process. These activities are divided into grade bands.
(For those without Internet/Technology Access: There will be hard copies provided outside your child’s school. You can pick them up outside of the school beginning Thursday, March 19.)
(SWIFTK-12 emails are limited to 140 characters per email/text which is why you may get multiple emails/texts.)
As you can imagine, there will be many questions along the way. We are answering most of these questions via our updates through the following methods- email/SwiftK12, our website, and our social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin) Please check these several times a day for updates.
You can also email your teachers and principals as questions arise. School and district office phones are available. All messages are being forwarded to appropriate personnel and someone will get in touch with you.
Important Note: In order to comply with the Presidential Declaration of a National Emergency and the State of Emergency Declaration by Governor Reeves, RCSD employees are working remotely except for those needed for essential operation functions such as Grab and Go lunches, paying bills, payroll, essential maintenance, etc.
Bringing everyone’s strengths together - BEST!
Sue Townsend, Ph.D.