Mississippi schools consider going virtual to reduce COVID spread

Published 10:14 am Thursday, September 2, 2021

As COVID-19 and the delta variant spread throughout the state, some Mississippi schools consider moving classrooms online to prevent the infection of their students, faculty and staff.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 3,850 more cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi, 17 deaths, and 157 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. There are a total of 443,511 cases, 8,507 deaths and 1,170,701 persons have been fully vaccinated.

Lafayette County has 74 new COVID cases and one LTC facility outbreak. There have been no new deaths. The county has a total of 7,574 cases, 130 deaths and 191 LTC facility outbreaks.

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MSDH released charts showing 22% of positive COVID-19 cases are in children from ages five to 17 as of August 31. The percentage for this age group has been steadily increasing since July. In addition, Mississippi recently had it’s sixth pediatric COVID death since the pandemic began.

On August 19, the State Board of Education voted allowing schools to use hybrid scheduling when needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19 until October 1 and the board will consider extending this ruling through November.

With the large number of cases of COVID and quarantines, some schools are considering this option.

Oxford School District reported at least 2 teachers were infected with COVID-19, approximately 40 student COVID-19 cases,  260 students and an estimated 20 staff members are quarantined for the week of August 22.

During the same period, Lafayette County School District reported about 4 staff members are COVID positive, 55 students are COVID positive, 616 students and 11 teachers are quarantined.

Lafayette County Schools Superintendent Jay Foster states the quarantine numbers include instances of exposure to COVID-19 inside and outside of the schools, so the numbers are inflated.

“We continue to monitor the numbers,” said Foster. “I think our numbers are getting better. We will look at [the numbers] on Friday again and we will make our call based on our transmission policy.”

Lafayette County School Board has conducted a survey with parents of students and are taking the feedback into consideration when they make future decisions.

When asked if LCSD will consider going virtual, Foster said the school is trying to minimize learning loss and teachers are maintaining a virtual platform for students, but the option is not ideal.

“We run into a lot of issues with internet access and we have MiFis we can provide for internet access,” said Foster. “However, you also run into situations where kids are not at home because of child care and they are displaced. It also hurts us when kids are not in the position to do their learning.”

The LCSD is pushing for in-person learning and taking the needed precautions and safety measures to keep students, faculty and staff safe.