Students at Lowndes County School District will attend classes virtually during the first week back after holiday break, Superintendent Sam Allison told the school board at its Friday meeting.
The break begins on Dec. 21, and classes start back on Tuesday, Jan. 5. However, Allison said, students will not actually return to campus until Jan. 11. That way, he said, if any students are exposed to or contract COVID-19 during Christmas, New Year’s or other holiday celebrations and gatherings, they will not immediately return to school and be around teachers and other students.
“It just gives us a good 10 days between the New Year’s (holiday and the start of school),” Allison told The Dispatch Friday after the board meeting.
LCSD has seen an unusually high number of students and staff contract the virus, with 37 cases reported the week after Thanksgiving. Allison told board members that he believes the majority of those cases were from people getting together after Thanksgiving and said several of the staff and students who tested positive did not even return to campus before getting their results.
This past week, Allison reported, there had been 22 positive cases in the district reported as of the start of Friday’s board meeting at 12:30 p.m. — a significantly lower number than just after Thanksgiving.
Allison reiterated that he doesn’t believe the virus is spreading through classrooms. He said there are plastic dividers between students, that staff and students are all required to wear masks and that there is at least four feet of distance between students.
In answer to a question from board member Jane Kilgore, he said the virtual classes would include students in pre-K and self-contained special education classrooms.
One of the frustrations for Allison has been the number of students who never tested positive who still had to be quarantined because of exposure to the virus. He said he hopes by putting a 10-day buffer between holidays and the start of in-person classes, the district will limit the number of students who have to be quarantined.
“We’re hoping that that will help keep cases out of the building,” he told the board. “The thing about it, and I was on (State Health Officer) Dr. (Thomas) Dobbs’ call this morning, and you hear across the state, we’re not seeing close contacts in the classroom. There are some cases, but for the most part those people that are close contact in the classroom, it’s not spreading, because we’re wearing masks in the classroom.”
He also told the board the district changed its quarantine policies from 14 days to 10 days after exposure to COVID-19, per a change of guidelines from the Mississippi State Department of Health, which followed a change in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lowndes County is one of more than 60 counties throughout the state that is under a mask mandate per an executive order by Gov. Tate Reeves. Cases have been growing in Lowndes County, which has seen more than 3,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, and the state, which saw more than 2,000 new cases a day on Dec. 3, Dec. 4 and Wednesday.