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Mississippi Schools: Guidance for the 2020-21 School Year


This webpage provides guidance, considerations and best practices for Mississippi schools and districts for operating school in the 2020-21 school year. It has been developed with input from school and district leaders, mental health and health professionals, teachers, parents, and students. Additional information will be added as further research, data and resources become available.

The process of returning to school will look different in the 2020-21 school year because of the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Districts will need to adjust educational practices to best protect the health of students and staff in keeping with guidance from the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and the CDC. Despite these challenges, the MDE and the Mississippi State Board of Education remain committed to the state’s strategic plan for education that promotes high standards of achievement for ALL students. Local school districts should use their authority and flexibility to meet their individual needs and to be responsive to their communities. Districts and the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) have authority over extracurricular activities. 

The health and safety of our students, teachers and school staff is the highest priority with high-quality instruction and long-term success of students at the forefront of guidance development. Both aspects have been taken into consideration in providing the resources here.

School District Plans for 2020-21 

  • District plans submitted to the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) before July 31, 2020: PDF document / Excel spreadsheet    
  • District plans submitted to MDE mid-year 2020-21
  • 2020-21 Attendance Rate Report
  • Student Absence Report for 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21
  • State law requires Mississippi schools to operate 180 days each school year. Some districts may waive up to 10 required days.
  • School districts are the only ones with the legal authority to set school calendars, including the first and last day of school and school holidays. The school year must end by June 30.  
  • There is no authority given to the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) to direct school opening plans. 

  • The SBE gave school districts the flexibility to implement one of three options for operating schools in 2020-21: traditional, virtual or a hybrid of in-person and distance learning. To help districts develop class schedules, the SBE reduced the number of required instructional hours from 5.5 to 4 hours per day. Required instructional hours for high school courses will be waived if the district develops and publishes a local board-approved plan to ensure students master course content.  

  • Based on the March 14, 2020 State of Emergency Proclamation, the governor has the power to temporarily suspend or modify laws, rules and policies to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak. The governor could also declare school start dates by Executive Order. 

  • On August 3, 2020, the governor issued Executive Order 1517, which delays the start of the academic year until August 17 for students in grades 7-12 in school districts located in Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington counties. The delay applies to all types of school schedules: virtual, traditional or a hybrid. School for pre-K through grade 6 in the counties listed in the order may start before August 17, either through a virtual, traditional or hybrid schedule. 

Guidance and Policy Changes

Office of the Governor

Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) Guidelines 

  • MSDH Order: Requirement for Mississippi K-12 Schools to Report COVID-19: The order requires all Mississippi K-12 schools to report aggregate COVID-19 data weekly to the MSDH. (Aug. 14, 2020)

  • Updated September 2020: MSDH Guidelines for K-12 Reopening During COVID-19: Provides guidance on transmission of COVID-19, an activity decision matrix to determine risks associated with activities, and a process for addressing positive cases and potential outbreaks, including school dismissal considerations and roles of the schools.

Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) Policy Changes for the 2020-21 School Year  

Mississippi Department of Education Guidance  

Considerations for Reopening and Operating Mississippi Schools 

District Restart and Recovery Plan Guidance and Summary  
MDE Restart & Recovery Guidance & Summary – July 2020 includes resources for districts for opening schools and survey questions about their reopening plans. District plans submitted to MDE as of July 31, 2020 can be viewed in this PDF document or this spreadsheet

CCSSO Support
CCSSO Considerations for Teaching and Learning: District Guidance and Introductory Video 

MDE Updates
Administrator News, Professional Development Opportunities and Resources

MDE COVID-19 Updates and Information (March-June 2020)

Guidance Topics