MS Public Health Chief: Delay School Start Date

“It’s impossible to imagine we are not going to pay the price for cramming kids into schools right now.”  – Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer

Early last week, public health officials believed that it was possible to reopen school buildings safely. They’ve since changed their minds. 

In a Q&A with the Mississippi State Medical Association, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s chief public health officer, acknowledged that he was wrong to believe that it was safe to return teachers and students to school buildings this month. He now believes that schools should delay their start or operate only virtually at least through August as the pandemic rages in our state.

Additionally, the Health Department is recommending universal mask-wearing in schools for all age groups at whatever point schools open.

School districts submitted their reopening plans last week. Some have made updates already and all plans are fluid as school leaders respond in real-time to the rapidly changing health crisis. As of this morning, all school district plans offered some sort of virtual option for parents concerned about returning their children to school, and all school districts are making accommodations to address the virus – masks, frequent disinfecting, social distancing, etc. 

We strongly recommend against relying on third-party lists for your school district’s reopening plan. All of the lists we’ve seen contain errors – most likely because it is difficult to keep up with the near constant changes being driven by an out-of-control virus. Please check your school district’s web site for the most current plan.

Gov. Reeves is currently out of state vacationing at the beach with his family. When he returns, he is expected to address the worsening pandemic and its effect on schools.

Please be patient with your school leaders. We have heard from many of them who express deep concern – even heartbreak – at a menu of bad choices. Students do need to be in school. For some students, it isn’t safe not to be in school. But school buildings pose a serious threat to everyone right now.

We promise to keep you updated as we learn more about plans for reopening schools. In the meantime, stay safe! Together, we’ve got this.