JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On Thursday, the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted to allow school districts to use hybrid scheduling if needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The state has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases recently due to the Delta variant.

According to the SBE, Thursday’s decision was made in consultation with the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). The hybrid scheduling option is now available and will extend through October 31, 2021. The board will consider extending the option beyond November 1 at its October meeting.

Leaders said Hybrid scheduling can only be used to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

“The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) recommended the policy change because some superintendents expressed concern about the challenge of ensuring adequate social distance among students,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Hybrid scheduling gives districts another strategy to help educate students safely.”

Before the start of the new school year, the board set requirements for districts that choose to offer a virtual learning option and established standards for schoolwide virtual learning days.

Under the SBE policies, districts that offer a virtual option for individual students must adopt local board-approved policies that include the following:

  • Criteria for students to participate in virtual learning
  • Requirements for equipment
  • Connectivity
  • Attendance and student conduct
  • Assurances of equal access and non-discrimination and the delivery of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities

Districts are still required to provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction and must ensure any virtual learning days include actual teaching for a minimum of 330 minutes, as state law requires.