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Some Jackson County parents concerned over rising number of COVID cases in schools

Just over 2% of students in the Jackson County School District have tested positive for COVID-19 so far this year.
Jackson County School District leaders say they are doing what they can to keep students safe...
Jackson County School District leaders say they are doing what they can to keep students safe and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.(WLOX)
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:16 AM CDT
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VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - With many schools across South Mississippi switching to virtual learning due to the rising number of COVID cases, other districts are doing their best to keep students in the classroom. However, many parents still have concerns.

In the Jackson County School District, leadership is now meeting daily to discuss how the district can better protect its students and staff.

Still, not every parent is satisfied, and some are demanding more from the district.

Out of the 9,000 students in the district, JCSD reports just over two percent have tested positive for COVID-19. The 2.3 percent is an increase from the one percent that the district witnessed last week.

As more cases are reported, parents are reaching out to school officials upset over some of the district’s policies.

”What I am arguing here is what a parent said to me today... is that what we’re doing, in his words, is asinine. It’s asinine,” said Vancleave and East Central Assistant Superintendent Todd Boucher. “I asked, ‘Why do you say that?’ and he said ‘Because you’re not letting them go to football practice in second block, because they are isolated, but as soon as school is out, go play, go practice, go ride on the bus home.’ He said, ‘It makes no sense what we’re doing.’”

WLOX talked with a grandmother who has granddaughter at an East Central school. She said she has been disappointed so far with the district’s response to the rising number of delta variant cases and the potential risk it poses to children.

”I don’t feel like (Jackson County School District) were prepared,” said grandmother Bonnie Danis. “They knew this was coming and they were ill-prepared for it. They are not notifying the parents that children are testing positive or have been exposed to positive (cases).”

Danis’ granddaughter is currently quarantining at home after possibly being exposed at school It’s leading the concerned grandmother to question the safety procedures that are being done within the district.

“Are the buses being sanitized everyday? It is bogus to me. Let’s go virtual for a few weeks and get this cleaned up,” said Danis.

Superintendent Dr. John Strycker said the district is doing everything it can to protect students and staff, and to be transparent about the number of positive cases they have reported.

”Every week, we post our numbers. Every day, I send out an update to the board of education and the leadership team,” he said. “So we’re doing the best we can to communicate. However, I do understand the concern. This is a confusing time period across the country and the world. No one has a template on how to handle this situation. So we’re doing the best we can. Can we improve? Certainly, we can and we will do the best we can to improve that.”

While district officials have discussed re-implementing some of last year’s safety protocols, requiring students and employees to wear masks will not be something the district will do.

So far, St. Martin schools have reported the highest number of cases in the district with 32 students testing positive. That resulted in four outbreaks since school began. Three of those outbreaks were at the high school, where 18 students have tested positive so far.

However, when it comes to schools throughout the entire county, Jackson County School District is not the district with the most positive cases reported so far.

Ocean Springs High School has the highest number with 83 students and seven employees who have tested positive so far this school year. Ocean Springs Upper Elementary is next with 58 students who have tested positive this year. Ocean Springs Middle School is also topping the list with 31 students who have tested positive.

To see the full school report from Mississippi State Department of Health for the week of Aug. 9-13, click here.

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