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Mississippi public schools closed through April 17; MDE suspends state and federal testing

Oxford and Lafayette County School Districts had already closed schools through March 27, but Governor Tate Reeves extended that order a little longer.

During an announcement on his Facebook page, Reeves declared that all Mississippi public schools would remain closed through April 17. The decision was made as an effort to help continue the social distancing measures mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and limit the spread of COVID-19.

As with most schools in Mississippi, Oxford and Lafayette have not opened their schools since before spring break began on March 9. If the decision to extend the school closures past April 17, then students will have missed five weeks of physical class time. Both school districts are scheduled to begin their digital and distance learning plans on March 23.

“We actually thought that this might be a strong possibility last Wednesday when we closed for Monday and Tuesday (of this week),” Oxford school superintendent Brian Harvey said. “That’s really why we started preparing for this and laying the groundwork (earlier this week) in the hope that we’ll have a good start to our virtual learning.”

During their March board meeting on Thursday, the State Board of Education also moved to suspend the administration of statewide assessments required by state and federal law for the 2019-20 school year. Along with that, the Board suspended the statewide accountability for the 2019-20 school year and requested a federal waiver.

With the unknown certainty of when schools will resume this year, the decision to suspend state testing takes a little pressure off of teachers, students and administrators in trying to figure out how to administrate them digitally.

“It takes a tremendous about of pressure off,” said Lafayette County school superintendent Dr. Adam Pugh. “It just takes that pressure off that you’re not burdened by something that you’re held responsible for, but you can’t complete your job. If they were here and could do their job that’s one thing, but when you can’t do your job and you’re still held to those standards, that’s just a tough thing.”

On Thursday, Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill confirmed Lafayette County had its first confirmed COVID-19 case. The Mississippi State Health Department also confirmed the case to EAGLE.