Oxford School District keeps mask mandate in place

Published 11:02 am Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The mask mandate at all Oxford School District campuses remains in place through at least the first half of October.

During the OSD Board of Trustees regular meeting on Monday, Oxford school superintendent Bradley Roberson made the announcement he was keeping the mandate in place through Oct. 15. The Board will then revisit the temporary mandate, which has already been extended twice, during a special meeting on that day.

Roberson put the mandate in place on July 31 after Lafayette County saw a spike in cases due to the Delta Variant. Since school started on Aug. 6, OSD saw their peak of new cases at 42 cases on Aug. 21. For the week of Sept. 13-26, the district reported 11 new cases with seven of them from an outbreak at Della Davidson Elementary.

While Roberson put the mandate in place for another two weeks, he did mention the return of masks becoming optional again could be on the horizon.

“I do want the public to know I am working on a transitional plan for when the time comes for us to return to a mask-optional policy,” Roberson said during the meeting. “I want you to please understand I’m not committing to removing the mask mandate in two weeks just by giving you this tonight. I’m tell you that it is important for us to be ready to transition when the time comes.”

The mask mandate issue was brought up during Roberson’s superintendent’s report, where he shed more light on the district’s MAAP scores that were released last Thursday.

While OSD ranked inside the top 10 districts in the state regarding their English Language Arts (ELA) score, Roberson reiterated the sobering realization that their overall proficiency score in ELA was less than 50 percent.

Across the entire district, ELA proficiency fell about 10 percent from their scores in 2019, according to Roberson. Mathematics proficiency scores across OSD fell about 18 percent while history dropped 17 percent and science dropped six percent.

“While those proficiency percentages are certainly nothing to be proud of. Honestly, it could have been even worse,” Roberson said. “Our proficiency percentages likely fell within the top 20 districts in the state in all four categories. That should be alarming to all of us.”

Virtual learning affected MAAP scores across the state, including OSD. There were approximately 1,500 students who started the 2020-21 school year virtually. Virtual students’ ELA proficiency scores were 10 percent less than students who returned to school for in-person learning and 18 percent less in their mathematics proficiency.

“I want to let that sink in about how important it is that our kids are in seats in our schools. Incredibly important,” Roberson said. “I felt the need to share that with everyone tonight because it’s just one piece of data that shows the significant negative impact the pandemic has had on the educational journey of our kids. It’s also shows the sense of urgency we must have to get back to school as we once knew it and to continue to build structures to make up for the significant learning loss.”