Mississippi schools to remain closed through rest of semester

Mississippi schools to remain closed through rest of semester
Governor Tate Reeves discusses the various disaster responses involved in the Easter Sunday storms and COVID-19 crisis. (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tuesday, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced schools will remain closed through the remainder of the semester.

Schools were tentatively closed through April 17 in the state. Reeves said educators should continue distance learning while they remain closed.

“I know how hard teachers, students, all staff, and parents have been working during this dangerous time," he said. “You have my deep respect and sincere admiration. It has been so encouraging to see the efforts of our education community to protect the people of Mississippi while ensuring learning takes place. I know our education community will do whatever it takes to make sure Mississippi kids don’t fall behind.”

He said the thought of the young kids has made the decision tough on him, but the emergency ultimately deemed it not safe to reopen schools.

Reeves knows keeping students home for the remainder of the semester isn’t an easy task for all Mississippi families.

“Not everyone has fancy webcams and fast internet, not everyone has parents who can become full time teachers," said Reeves. "Those are blessings. But we cannot expect that every household will be equipped to handle this the same.”

But with the main goal being protecting the health and safety of those in the state, he couldn’t risk it.

“It was my hope and it was my intention and it was my goal that we would open schools back up and that kids would be back in school next Monday, but, honestly, the data just doesn’t justify that particular decision," added Reeves.

Mom, Abby Gomez, admits the new normal is tough but she’s relieved.

“It’s difficult and it’s hard to keep the kids motivated and it’s hard to keep them on track," explained Gomez, who has a fourth and second grader. "But I’d rather do this than have them be exposed to anything at school.”

As she thought through the possibilities Tuesday, Haley Santos realized.

“Kids have no concept of germs," said the mom of two boys. “So, we’ve been working on that at our house a lot. But if you get a group of kids in one setting, it’s going to be hard to control the germs.”

The state’s health officer says there is a definite health risk that was considered when discussing the impacts of school closures.

“Think about children who are asymptomatically shedding and could take it to older adults and stuff like that. It makes a ton of difference to make sure we don’t have those mechanisms of rapidly spreading the virus," said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

State testing requirements have already been waived.

“To every parent who has been stretched to their limit to take care of their kids... thank you," noted Gov. Reeves. "None of your work goes unnoticed.”

Mississippi’s shelter-in-place order is set to be lifted next Monday. Reeves telling us today that he’ll make a decision on whether that will be amended before this weekend.

He says students who follow along with distance learning should be able to graduate on time.

A ‘Reopen Mississippi’ task force will work to kickstart the economy once the state is ready to reopen. A representative from each part of the state will be on the board, led by Joe Sanderson of Sanderson Farms.

Reeves says the reopening of the state will have to be a layered approach, similar to the way the state was shut down.

The governor did not say whether he would extend the state’s shelter-in-place order that is set to expire on April 20.

Reeves also discussed the deadly Easter Sunday storms that ripped through the state.

He says the families he met with in tornado-ravaged areas are devastated, but resilient.

“The Mississippi spirit that unites us is strong,” he said.

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