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Area school districts react to schools remaining closed the rest of the semester

Public schools in Mississippi will remain closed for the rest of the current school year due to COVID-19.

That was the decision made by Governor Tate Reeves during his press conference on Tuesday. Schools were originally closed by Reeves until April 20, but will now not reopen their doors until at least late summer or in August when the 2020-21 school year begins.

“School buildings will remain closed for the rest of the semester,” Reeves said. “That does not mean school is canceled.”

The statewide shelter-in-place order also runs through 8 a.m. on April 20. A decision regarding the extension of that order was not discussed by Reeves.

Oxford and Lafayette County School Districts have had their campuses closed since March 16, when they extended spring break by a week to prepare for distance learning which began on March 23.

Distance learning will now take the place of in-person instruction in classrooms for the final month of the school year.

Oxford School District provided laptops to nearly all of its students during the first week of distance learning, and had plans in place in case students would not be able to return to classrooms.

“Today, Governor Reeves confirmed what we have been anticipating about the Covid-19 school closures,” Oxford school superintendent Brian Harvey said in a statement. “The Oxford School District will not return to classrooms for the remainder of the school year, but we will continue online learning. We are fortunate to have systems in place to reduce learning loss and continue to provide meals during this time.”

Reeves asked all school districts to submit distance learning plans and share which practices have worked best for both teachers and students.

Throughout the state, students do not all have the same access to internet and the ability to successfully perform tasks and complete assignments through distance are difficult. With that in mind, Reeves also said he will ask school districts to prepare plans for in-person instruction during the summer or early fall if needed.

Lafayette County School District posted a statement through their app and all social media accounts regarding Reeves’ decision.

“LCSD will continue with distance learning and requirements to finish out the school year,” the statement read. “Meals will also continue to be provided to our students and the pick-up locations.”

Both school districts said they will provide more information regarding grade promotions and graduation plans to parents when available.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association also responded to Tuesday’s announcement. With schools closed and in-person instruction not taking place, any sports or extra-curricular activities are not permitted and have been suspended since March 19.

“The MHSAA has remained in contact with state education officials during this situation,” said MHSAA executive director Don Hinton in a statement. “It was clear that the statewide closure of schools for the spring semester was a possibility and that obviously impacts athletics and activities.”

An official decision regarding the cancellation of athletics and activities for the remainder of the spring season could come on Wednesday.