Nonprofit Mississippi News Teachers in Rankin County School District received two masks, a small hand sanitizer bottle and a spray bottle with chemicals that were “hazardous” to human and domestic animals to last them the semester. Teachers at a Jackson County School District school have been left with so few cleaning supplies that they are having to cut off Lysol wipes from brand-name Lysol to clean their desks between classes. Teachers are spending their own money on cleaning supplies for their classrooms, just a little over a week after students returned to the district. Administrators at a Itawamba County School District school aren’t imposing mask requirements on students in hallways and other common areas. Teachers and students are frequently pulling masks under their noses. Administrators at Poplarville School District have informed teachers that students can remove their masks from classrooms if they are less than two feet apart. This is contrary to state health officials’ recommendation that all people wear masks and keep six feet away from others. Many teachers have shared horror stories about not receiving the protections and resources they requested from state and district leaders after schools across the state reopened for instruction. Mississippi Today shared the stories of educators who feared losing their jobs and being retaliated by district leaders. Mississippi teachers are among the least paid in the country. Many districts prohibit teachers from speaking with journalists and allow them to sign broad termination clauses in their annual contracts. These teachers are not identified. Teachers in the state should be worried as COVID-19 early data for schools paints an alarming picture. At least 589 teachers in the state were quarantined due to possible exposure as of Tuesday, less than two weeks after the school started. At least 245 teachers tested positive. At least 2,035 students were quarantined during the first few days. At least 199 other students have been confirmed positive. READ NEXT: COVID-19 outbreak closes Mississippi elementary school just one week after it opened On Friday, 38 of the state’s 82 counties reported confirmed cases in public schools. On Monday, there were 71 confirmed cases in schools across the state. According to health officials, it is likely that teachers and students had the virus before classes started. They brought it with them when classes resumed. The governor. Tate Reeves reviewed the plans for all 138 school districts to reopen and declared that most would proceed as planned. Reeves decided that eight counties that were considered hotspots, which is just 7% of the state’s student population, should be delayed two weeks to Aug. 17. Reeves ignored the advice of top state medical professionals and education advocates who had publicly asked for the delay of school starting to September. Reeves declared that schools would reopen on schedule, but Dr. Thomas Dobbs (State Health Officer) said this in a live conference. Dobbs stated earlier this month that it was impossible to imagine that the state is not going to have to pay for pushing children into schools. “There is no possible scenario where it’s not going to go bad,” Reeves stated. Without state mandates and a limited standard for reopening schools, each district was responsible for deciding when and how to deal with safety concerns. Many teachers spoke out against this decision, stating that even neighboring school districts have had to respond in different ways to confirmed cases.
After a positive test by a choir teacher, Gulfport High School had more than 100 students quarantined. Mississippi Today was informed by a teacher in a neighboring school that her district has decided not to quarantine students in the same way. According to the teacher, “We have heard that some students at my school have been diagnosed with HIV,” she told Mississippi Today. “But we didn’t do Gulfport and quarantine every person who came into contact with these students. This begs the question: “Why isn’t there anything uniform?” Why doesn’t everyone have to do it the same way? It doesn’t feel like everyone has a good grasp of best practices, and that’s making it unsafe.” There are many stories about unsafe school activities and districts not adhering their reopening plans. Oak Grove High School, Hattiesburg hosted its annual school-sponsored senior celebration. The event was captured on social media with students playing football in close quarters, without masks. Lamar County School District officials sent the parents of seniors a text a few hours later that stated: “If your child participated in this morning’s Sr. Celebration, we are notifying you that a positive Covid case was identified.” The Grenada School District’s janitors were not given enough cleaning supplies to clean their classrooms at the end each day, as promised by their district leaders in their reopening plans. A teacher on the Gulf Coast told Mississippi Today that it was “a disaster waiting for me.” “It feels like there’s no way to keep everyone safe. We’re doing our best, but it’s not possible.” It’s not a pleasant feeling.”