SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Not all school districts in northwest Louisiana, or the ArkLaTex as a whole, have chosen to push back the start date for the first day of school. One of these districts is DeSoto Parish.
DeSoto Parish’s school year begins next Wednesday, August 5, as originally scheduled.
Their superintendent, Clay Corley, says they're excited to get started next week and are as prepared as they're going to get.
This includes North DeSoto 5th grade Social Studies teacher, Sheila Murphy, who has spent the last month trying to recover from COVID-19.
While recovering, Murphy spent some of that time learning all about virtual classroom teaching.
“Even if they’re home or in the building, the brick and mortar, it’s an amazing experience. And we worked all summer long learning how to program and add enhancements. I have learned so much. So this ole’ dog has learned new tricks,” says Murphy.
She says this was the first day she’s felt at full strength in more than a month, and describes the relief she sees after reassuring parents their children will be safe at school.
“Because the unknown is scary. And once you get information out and sit down with a parent, or talk with them, you can just see them relax,” said Murphy.
Superintendent Corley addressed some public concerns after confirming two teachers tested positive for COVID-19 this summer, both of who are now nearing the end of their quarantine time.
“It’s important to note that a positive test result will exist among students and staff. We know that. But, rest assured that they’ll follow the guidelines for quarantine,” said Corley.
According to Corley, their district has enough substitute teachers available if staffing were to become an issue in the time ahead.
Just like many other districts in northwest Louisiana, DeSoto Parish Schools will do a combination of a hybrid school schedule for students.
That means those going back to in-person instruction will go to their school two days a week and then three days on Google Classroom from home.
Then there’s the 32 percent of their students who are expected to take part in distance learning full time on the web.
The biggest challenge, as Corley sees it, will be students’ online access with their Chromebooks, which are assigned to every student.
“So when a child cannot connect, they can work through their lessons. They can work as a student would any other time. Just work offline,” explained Corley. “Then at any moment when they either come to school or wherever they’re at, and they’re able to connect, they can choose that online option.”
There’s also something called the Community Connection Initiative in DeSoto Parish Schools, which Corley explained will provide transponders or hot spots to public areas in the district.
They’ve improved WiFi coverage on their school campuses as well, which Corley says will make a big difference for students needing internet access.
“So at any point in time campuses are closed folks can come on campus, be able to access our WiFi signal,” sais Corley.
The district has invested in MiFi devices, which help connect to the internet when WiFi coverage is not available. They are used for distance learning in rural areas, typically for home-bound students.
The district also looked into buying more MiFi devices for the general student population, but Corley says the costs were simply way too high.