LUCEDALE, Miss. (WLOX) - Students in George County School District will all return to school on Aug. 17, said Superintendent Wade Whitney.
Whitney made the announcement Wednesday morning on WLOX. He said the district will release details later in the day to all parents and students.
George County is one of eight counties in Mississippi ordered by Gov. Reeves on Tuesday to push the start of school back for students in grades 7-12. It’s the only county in South Mississippi that is on the governor’s list.
George County School District already planned on having a staggered return to school before the governor’s announcement. The original plan had half the students returning on Aug. 12 and the other half on Aug. 13, with virtual learning set to begin on Aug. 17.
Many seniors have been eagerly awaiting the start of school, like Annaleigh O’Brien, who has spent the last few days painting parking spots on campus for a local fundraiser. She is eager to return to school and was stunned to hear that classes were once again pushed back.
“My first reaction was, honestly, I was very sad,” she said. “I was excited about my senior year and being able to go back, and I have been out here for two days now painting parking spots so not being able to come to campus this fall like we expected has been a real let down, but it is the safest thing.”
Superintendent Whitney told WLOX on Tuesday that he was also surprised at the governor’s decision to include George County.
“To be quite frank with you, we didn’t see it coming. It kind of came out of left field,” he said. “We were not expecting to be on that list but we are, and now we have to make some adjustments to what we are doing.”
The superintendent said he believes the reason George County was included on the governor’s latest executive order can be attributed to the high number of cases reported in the George County Correctional Facility.
In the last two weeks, George County has reported a total of 370 cases. Of those, more than 230 were inmates at the jail.
“A large number of the cases in George County are from the outbreak at the jail,” said Whitney. “I am sure that played into the decision to be put on that list, and because he put us on that list, we’re going to have to make some adjustments.”
However, the adjustments will most likely be minor since George County had already pushed the first day of school back to Aug. 14.
“Fortunately, we had made the decision to delay school so it is not going to have that large of an impact on us in terms of returning to school, but it will have some and we may tweak our schedule a bit,” said Whitney.
In the meantime, students like Annaleigh are excited to return to school and are looking forward to the first day.
“It is going to be an amazing feeling to just be back with my class and my friends, even other people from other grades,” she said. “It is going to be amazing to be walking down the hallway and be able to see them, even if we’re going to be wearing masks and whatever. It is still going to be an amazing experience to be able to come back to campus.”
Long Beach School District is also planning for an untraditional return to school by minimizing the number of students who will be in the schools. The district is splitting students into two groups, with the groups alternating one week in school and one week doing virtual learning.
To see a list of all of the back to school plans for school districts in South Mississippi, click HERE.