/Covid forces Mississippi schools into virtual learning

Covid forces Mississippi schools into virtual learning

Mississippi News Nonprofit A school nurse informed students and their families that there were so many COVID-19 cases in the school, it was “almost impossible” to trace them. All seventh- through 12th-graders could assume they had been exposed. Brookhaven’s West Lincoln Attendance Center is an example of a school that does not have a mask mandate. It also quickly switched to a hybrid teaching model after the holiday break. As administrators and teachers attempt to start the spring semester, schools are facing staffing shortages and replacement teacher shortages. Omicron, the most contagious and dominant strain of coronavirus in the state, is spreading rapidly through schools. On Thursday, Mississippi saw an unprecedented number of cases with more than 8,000 Mississippians becoming positive for the coronavirus in one day. For the week of January 3-7, 1,541 teachers and staff were positive in 633 schools. This is the highest number of positive staff ever reported during the pandemic. School leaders have to deal with COVID-19 fatigue among students and their families, in addition to the health and logistical challenges. The Oxford School District Superintendent stated last week that he was not sure the community would accept another mask mandate. However, a board member proposed requiring masks. Other board members opposed it. The district announced that it would close on Friday to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A memo to students and parents stated that “Today, there are 107 staff members out” and that 58 of them were classroom teachers. “… “It is difficult to give the quality instruction our students are used to,” Roberson and another district administrator were acting as elementary school principals after four administrators tested positive. The district’s public relations officer told Mississippi Today that Roberson and another district-level administrator were in place earlier in the week. Superintendent Ken Barron said that the Yazoo County Schools District had delayed its in-person commencement date by two days because more than 10 staff and faculty members were either sick or quarantined. This week all students and staff returned on campus. Each school saw hundreds of students absent in the first three days. Barron and many other school leaders insist that they are doing all they can to keep children in school. This includes the mask mandate, which has been in effect since the start of the school year. He said, “As long we have enough adults to hold school, then we will be there.” Barron stated that teachers and staff who were vaccinated before the end of last school year are eligible for a financial incentive. This incentive has been said to have helped lower the number of infections and quarantine deaths in this group. Masks have been required in the district throughout the year. He said, “We are doing everything we can to keep the doors open.” A press release said that nearly 7,000 students from Vicksburg Warren School district began a five-day quarantine across the entire district on Friday. Schools and offices will remain closed through Wednesday next week. Although school officials didn’t provide the current case and quarantine numbers, Christi Kilroy, public relations officer, stated that the “numbers were rising rapidly this week” and that the board decided to close schools and offices. “With so many people out, we were also having difficulties covering staff needs to keep offices and schools open.” Superintendent Cory Uselton of the DeSoto County School district stated that the biggest problem facing the district right now is staffing. Although substitute teacher salaries have increased this year, teachers still have to use teacher’s assistants to substitute for their own teachers. Some teachers have also had to sacrifice planning periods in order to cover the class of a colleague. One or two classrooms in the district are currently in quarantine. This is following Department of Health guidelines that each classroom should be isolated if three students test positive. However, Uselton stated that at the moment there haven’t been enough clusters to warrant switching entire schools to remote learning. He stated that all teachers were instructed to be ready to switch to virtual learning within 24 hour notice and that although this has been a difficult time for students and teachers, he is proud to see the dedication teachers show to continuing education despite these circumstances. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today.