Oxford School District extends indoor mask mandate

Published 12:51 pm Friday, August 20, 2021

With COVID-19 cases rising across Mississippi, the Oxford School District extended its mask mandate on Friday.

During a special called meeting, the OSD Board of Trustees unanimously approved to keep the mandate in place, which was set to expire on Friday. Masks are required inside all OSD buildings through Sept. 15.

The recommendation was made by OSD superintendent Bradley Roberson, who stated the extension coincides with the same day Governor Tate Reeves’ latest State of Emergency expires. The Board will revisit the mandate on Sept. 15.

After voting to allow masks be optional for all OSD students and employees, even thought not fully vaccinated, Roberson reversed a few days later announcing masks would be required through Aug. 20.

“It’s been a tough few weeks since the mask mandate (went into effect), but honestly, now more than ever I feel it was the right call,” Roberson said.

Roberson told the Board during the meeting that over 80 percent of the school districts in Mississippi now have a mask mandate in place as of Tuesday. Regents School of Oxford instituted a mask mandate on Thursday for a two-week period.

As a district, OSD had 18 positive cases reported last week with nine of them reported on-campus and nine off-campus and led to 56 students going into quarantine. Roberson said they are seeing similar number of cases this week, according to data he saw at the end of school on Thursday with 54 students placed in quarantine.

The ratio of students quarantined per positive case this school year is four to one, according to Roberson. The ratio during last school year was 12 students quarantined per positive case. A total of 110 students have been quarantined since the start of school, which is about 2.3 percent of the student population.

Out of the entire district, only three teachers have tested positive this school year, according to Roberson. He stated over 80 percent of OSD staff are fully vaccinated.

“I want to thank all of our students, our teachers, our staff and our parents for their willingness to work through this together,” Roberson said. “I know it’s not easy. None of us envisioned this situation to begin the school year, which makes it even hard to swallow quite honestly. We had laid COVID to rest and were ready to move on with life and school. But we really need to lift each other up. We need to encourage one another and get through this together.”

The Board also voted to amend the district’s Return to Learn Plan. The change will involve each campus utilizing its outdoor spaces and classrooms during the lunch period to help lower quarantine numbers and limit close contacts among students. That change will go into effect on Monday.