Water woes force JPS to extend school day

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Students in the Jackson Public Schools who celebrated their surprise extended winter break because of city-wide water issues will be upset to learn the district is extending its school day this spring.

Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today

The JPS Board of Trustees.

The Jackson Public School District missed seven school days this year due to city-wide problems with water pressure and winter weather. To make up for it, students will spend additional time in the classroom.

The Board of Trustees approved a make-up plan Tuesday night. All schools will extend the school day by one hour from Feb. 12 to April 12.

High schools will dismiss at 4:30, middle schools will dismiss at 3:50, and elementary schools will dismiss at 3:15.

Students were originally supposed to return from winter break on  Monday, Jan. 8, but more than 100 water main breaks across the city left many of the district’s buildings without water pressure.  A winter storm swept through the city the week of Jan. 15, which kept students out of school until Thursday, Jan. 18.

The district already had March 30 and April 2 set as make up days for inclement weather, meaning the district only had to account for an additional five school days. The district will use a parent-teacher conference planned for Feb. 19 as another make-up day, and reschedule the conference. The board agreed to add days to the plan to “bank” two additional make up days and learning time.

The board also unanimously whittled superintendent search firm candidates down to two options: Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates based in Schaumberg, Ill. and Omaha, Neb.-based McPherson and Jacobson LLC.

Moving forward, the school board will work with board attorney Dorian Turner to schedule a time to interview both search firms.

Current interim Superintendent Freddrick Murray stepped into the role in November 2016 when former superintendent Cedrick Gray resigned after the district received an F accountability rating and faced a possible accreditation downgrade.

Murray has led the district through a tumultuous period. For months, stakeholders and officials worked under a looming possible state takeover. The State Board of Education and Commission on School Accreditation both requested the governor declare a state of emergency to take over the district, and announced Murray would be replaced by Margie Pulley, conservator of Tunica County Schools.

That did not happen. Instead, Gov. Phil Bryant announced the Better Together Commission, a partnership between his office, the City of Jackson, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to avoid state takeover. The commission is helping with the superintendent search and overseeing an evaluation of the district.

The board plans to have a permanent superintendent in place for the 2018-19 school year.