MSMS adjusts plans for 2020-2021 school year


Muneebah Umar

Administration finally decided that students will spend the first quarter of school virtually.

Clare Seo, Social Media Editor

Following Miss. Governor Tate Reeves’ press conference Aug. 4,  MSMS Executive Director Dr. Germain McConnell announced via email that MSMS would postpone all students from staying on campus until the end of the first nine weeks period (Aug. 10 to Oct. 18). There is an exception to accommodate students who lack internet access or have conditions unable to continue remote learning.

Holding nearly daily meetings, administrators emphasized that the school’s final decisions will be made based on their priorities that ensure the health and safety of students and faculty.

“It’s always safety first. Secondly, to try to maintain as normal of an environment as possible. Lastly, that we provide a learning experience to the fullest extent possible, whether that’s inside the classroom or outside,” McConnell said.

Before McConnell’s most recent email, juniors planned to arrive on campus Aug. 8 and stay until Sept. 4. Seniors were scheduled to stay on campus from Sept. 7 to Oct. 16. In addition, junior orientation was scheduled to be held on campus, but it will now be conducted virtually. The Ceremony of Lights, originally scheduled to take place on Aug. 16, has now been postponed to October and may happen virtually. 

MSMS is monitoring COVID-19 statistics as final decisions regarding the school’s other upcoming events and school year are still in the works.

“We have to look at statistics across the state,” McConnell said. “Decisions will have to be made on the fly. I can’t say a certain number of cases to [determine anything].”

To follow both CDC’s guidelines and ensure the safety of all students when students do return to campus, MSMS plans to house one student per room. With seniors and juniors staying on campus at alternate time periods, the school is able to allow all students to have their own room and safely socially distance. Students will also be asked to wear their masks when inside each others’ rooms, and each room can only have two people in it at a time. 

Both current students and parents are concerned about creating traditional junior-senior relationships. However, the school plans to keep students engaged virtually and maintain those relationships to the best of its abilities.

“Our residential life staff is working hard to develop virtual programs to help keep everyone engaged,” Director of Student Affairs LeAnn Alexander said. “We will have virtual programs that will connect everyone in that space. It will be a challenge, but I know we will work together to make it happen.”

Students will also be restricted from leaving campus while staying at MSMS. To minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, MSMS PLUS will be grocery shopping for students, and students will be allowed to order food deliveries. In addition, MSMS will continue to provide students with an Emergency Care Closet, which supplies all students with free essential items like shampoo and toilet paper

Traditional residential life duties, such as work service and wellness, will continue throughout the school year. However, finalized plans are still fluid and may change accordingly to new information being released. 

“While students are home, they will be required to log work service that they complete as well as wellness journal entries,” Alexander said. “We hope to use Canvas as the platform for logging and doing wellness discussion boards. While students are on campus, they will complete those tasks as normal by logging on respective cards.”

To prepare for the hybrid of virtual and physical learning, MSMS has provided training to teachers to ensure that all students will receive the same quality of teaching. McConnell commented that the hybrid will also best prepare the school in case all-virtual learning becomes necessary. In addition, the school has also restructured its scheduling format to ensure the same rigor of education. 

“MSMS has gone to a different schedule to allow students time to delve deeply into courses.  Students will have a maximum of four classes as opposed to 8-10 classes to manage each quarter,” Director for Academic Affairs Kelly Brown said.

Brown also said that club activities and other extracurriculars will resume virtually for the first quarter of the school year. 

In efforts to keep classes engaging for students and teachers, students will be required to show their live videos and be present while teachers are presenting course material. In addition, the usage of breakout rooms and chat features on Zoom and Microsoft Teams will be incorporated during classes.

Classrooms have also changed to maintain safe social distancing and prepare for virtual learning. Every classroom is currently installing cameras, and all desks are rearranged. Throughout all academic and residential buildings, there are reminders to maintain social distancing as well as promoting hand-washing. In addition, there are hand sanitizers dispersed throughout the campus. The MUW Cafeteria has also been rearranged to follow CDC’s guidelines.

Students express that accommodations made for the school year are the best options under current circumstances. “As much as I am heartbroken that I won’t receive a “normal” senior year, I am still hopeful and excited about everything that administration, faculty, staff and students have in place for this year!” Senior Class President Madison Meeks said. “This school year will be amazing—just like all of the others.”

“Despite the disparity in my previous ideas about attending MSMS and my current ideas, I am still excited at the opportunity to soak up all the knowledge that I can and take advantage of the many opportunities to grow as a student and as a person,” junior Elena Eaton said. “Much has changed, but a lot hasn’t, and I think it’s up to us students to have the same faith in MSMS now as we did when we applied.”