JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has issued an executive order Tuesday to delay the start date for some 7 through 12-grade schools in hot spot areas.
Any county that has more than 200 cases or more than 500 cases per 100,000 people will have delayed start dates.
Two Midsouth counties: Coahoma and Panola made the list.
Bolivar, Forrest, George, Hines, Sunflower and Washington counties are also included.
The state will require masks in schools for teachers and students, plus they are also requiring masks at public gatherings statewide for two weeks, in a push to allow schools to safely reopen.
“I believe in my heart we got to get kids back to school. I know I want to see college football this fall. The best way for that to occur is for us all to recognize that wearing a mask, as irritating as it can be, and I promise you I hate it more than anybody watching today, it is critical,” said Reeves.
The governor stated some schools were ready to go virtual.
Reeves will allow those who are closest to the classrooms to decide when the proper time is to go back to the classroom.
There could be staggered schedules.
“Here’s the bottom line: we have to balance the very real risk of the virus and the lifelong damage of school closures. To do that, we have to safely provide education for the greatest possible number of children,” said Reeves. “The best way to accomplish that is to provide guidelines, allow local school leaders to tailor them, and step in with the authority of state government where it is absolutely necessary. That is what we’re doing today. This is the beginning of that effort, not the end.”
Working closely with officials in the Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi State Department of Health, Governor Reeves is directing school districts in counties with higher risk of community transmission and recent spikes in new cases to delay the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.
The new executive order includes a statewide mask mandate for schools, instructing all Mississippians to wear a mask when inside a school building or classroom, or outside on a school campus when social distancing is not possible.
The Mississippi Association of Educators has been applying pressure to Governor Reeves and the state to delay the start of in-person instruction for a month so get a better handle on the virus.
They sent FOX13 the following statement in response to the announcement:
“No one understands students needing to be back in the classroom more than educators do. We know it’s about much more than academic achievement. We miss our students dearly, and know how badly they need to be back in school buildings.
That’s why we’ve asked for a month long hiatus on in-person instruction so we can get a handle on the virus and back in the classroom as quickly as possible, with an assessment at the beginning of September to determine what should occur moving forward.
No one is proposing an indefinite hold on going back into buildings. We are simply requesting a few weeks to lower the number of new COVID cases and develop a plan that ensures every school in every district has the resources they need to get back into buildings safely.
That said: The governor’s plan, in its current form, is reckless and irresponsible. It ignores the advice of the state’s top medical officials and is putting students and educators and their families at risk.”