Piney Woods returning to their roots amid pandemic and on campus learning

Pandemic takes Piney Woods school back to its roots

RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi’s only African American boarding school resumed in person classes, revisiting the roots of its founder during the pandemic.

As public schools grapple with stopping the spread of COVID-19, Piney Woods School is using its surroundings to combine nature in its daily curriculum.

Tuesday a Piney Woods English class is studied “The Boy in the Black Suit” at the gravesite of school founder Dr. Laurence C. Jones.

The boarding school is using its 2,000 acres as another outdoor learning tool and buffer during the outbreak.

“In many ways this pandemic has taken us back to our roots,” said Piney Woods School president Dr. Will Crossley.

The boarding school alumnus recalled the founder teaching classes beneath the trees in 1909.

Jodari Mason, a senior from Atlanta, is one of the 70 students who returned to the campus. There are now only single room dorms.

“We each have our own rooms,” said Mason. “I thought it was gonna be a little risky but the way Piney Woods handled it, it was really nice how they just tested all the students and got us back into class as quick as possible”.

Enrollment reduced from 100 students to 70. There are no more than 12 per class.

“We intend to provide that safe space,” said Crossley. “We’re doing it with a safe space from Coronavirus as much as we can do it and with a safe space from some of the racial strife that exists throughout the country”.

Trinity Jones is a senior from St. Petersburg Florida.

She’s been enrolled at Piney Woods since her freshman year.

“I was really excited to get back on campus,” said Jones. Virtual learning was ok, but I prefer being on campus, surrounded by all of my friends and the teachers".

The State Department of Health donated masks for all students.

Staff, faculty and students undergo routine COVID-19 testing.

Dr. Crossley said the entire Piney Woods campus has tested negative for the respiratory virus.

September 30 Piney Woods will hold a virtual fundraiser for student scholarships at 7.p.m.

According to officials, the majority of enrolled students receive work program scholarships and other scholarships to attend.

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