Stone Co. parents frustrated with lack of answers after school closes due to COVID outbreak

Stone High, Agricola Elementary, and South Hancock Elementary will be closed for 2 weeks due to the COVID outbreak.
Three schools in South Mississippi will be closed for two weeks due to COVID outbreaks only a week into the new school year.
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 1:10 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 7:21 AM CDT
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WIGGINS, Miss. (WLOX) - Another South Mississippi school is closing its doors for two weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

Stone High School announced early Wednesday afternoon that it would be closing early and will remain closed through Aug. 26.

During that time, students will transition to virtual classes and log on each day from 7:50am to 2:50pm for live instruction. Attendance will be taken daily, and grab-and-go meals for breakfast and lunch will be provided. All other schools will remain on their normal schedule.

When asked, district officials would not comment any further on the COVID outbreak, including releasing information on the number of positive cases that are currently reported amongst students and employees.

That lack of information is leaving many parents and guardians with unanswered questions and a lot of concerns.

Dale Jenkins has two grandchildren now quarantining inside his home and isn’t happy with the lack of precautions in the Stone County School District.

“Right now, I don’t feel safe sending my grandkids back to school,” he said.

On Wednesday, while getting a COVID test for one of his grandchildren, the other called asking to be picked up.

“My other grandson called me and said, ‘Grandpa, come pick me up.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said they were sending everybody home at one o’clock due to the outbreak of COVID,” said Jenkins.

He is far from the only frustrated parent in the district. Many have questions that they feel are not being answered, such as what if a quarantined student has younger a younger sibling that attends another school, and are the buses the same for high school and elementary school? Perhaps the most common question WLOX heard from the residents we talked to was whether or not the district would require masks going forward.

“This is what happens when you don’t follow the CDC guidelines,” said one concerned Stone County parent. “Masks should have definitely been mandated and they still should have taken the proper precautions to prevent this. The children haven’t even been back in school a week yet and we are already quarantining.”

A Hancock County elementary school also was closed Wednesday due to an outbreak. South Hancock Elementary announced Tuesday night that it would close for two weeks, as well. Later in the day, Agricola Elementary School in George County was also closed effective immediately, with students set to return Aug. 23.

Hancock County School District has required students to wear masks since school started last week; Stone County School District and George County School District have not.

The Mississippi Department of Health reports the number of positive COVID cases in employees and students, but it is optional for districts to submit the data. With school having just started, only one report has been done this academic year so far. It is for the week ending Aug. 6. Neither George County or Stone County reported any information to MSDH for that week.

MSDH defines an outbreak in a school setting as three or more individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the same group within a 14-day period. So three people in one classroom would be the same group. There’s no further explanation of how many cases it takes to close an entire school.

To read the most recent report on COVID-19 in Mississippi schools, click here.

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