Grades 7-12 in 8 counties may not begin in-person schooling before August 17, according to Gov. Reeves’ latest executive order. The mandate applies only to these counties:
Additionally, the governor announced a statewide mask mandate in public and in retail environments and mandatory mask wearing for all students and adults in schools.
Rather than mandating a statewide delay to the start of school, Reeves appeared to punt that decision to the local level, suggesting that local school leaders consider holding off on in-person school until later in the month. The governor’s extremely limited, piecemeal approach ignores the recommendations of Mississippi’s top health experts.
Last Friday, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s chief public health officer, acknowledged that he no longer believes it is safe to return teachers and students to school buildings this month, suggesting that schools delay their start or operate only virtually at least through August. University of Mississippi Medical Center Vice Chancellor Dr. LouAnn Woodward has called for a universal statewide delay to the start of school, as have the Mississippi chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Mississippi State Medical Association.
National experts report that Mississippi’s test positivity rate is the highest in the nation, and Mississippi is on track to overtake Florida as the Number 1 state for new coronavirus infections per capita. State health officials predict that COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have not reached their peak. We haven’t yet seen the worst of this pandemic.
Many eyes have been on the Corinth School District, which operates on an unconventional school calendar and welcomed students back last Monday. Six days into the school year the 2,600-student district reported 5 unrelated positive COVID-19 cases. The district, which followed recommended safety protocols, has notified all those who were in close contact with the infected persons, and 89 people are in 14-day quarantines as a result. Alcorn County, where Corinth is located, is not considered a COVID hot-spot and is not among the 37 Mississippi counties previously under a mask mandate.
School district officials are working overtime to respond to Mississippi’s surging COVID-19 crisis and state officials’ eleventh-hour mandates, weighing the all-too-real fears of parents and teachers against the educational needs of children. There are few good choices. Schools’ reopening plans are likely to change, so please regularly check your school district’s web site for updates.
Gov. Reeves has said that his mandates are subject to change as more information becomes available.
This is a harrowing time for educators and parents. We will keep you in the loop as parents, teachers, and state leaders seek the best possible solutions to unprecedented challenges.
In the meantime, let’s be be kind to one another and each do our part to tamp down this virus. Together, we’ve got this.