Miss. districts re-evaluate back-to-school plans following executive order

DeSoto County students return Monday

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - Over the last 24 hours, several Mississippi school districts have been re-evaluating their back-to-school plans. It comes after Governor Tate Reeves signed multiple executive orders to prepare for back-to-school season.

Governor Reeves’ executive orders will mandate masks in all schools and delay the start for some students in some counties considered hotspots.

In DeSoto County, home to the state’s largest school district, and a spot which reported thousands of COVID-19 cases, not much is changing to the district’s plan.

“Obviously we’re a little anxious. It’s all new. We’re telling people we’re all first year educators,” DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Cory Uselton said.

DeSoto County Schools will go back to class Monday. While the state’s largest school district is offering in-person instruction, it also has an all virtual option which about 13,000 of the district’s 35,000 students have opted into.

While the original plan recommended masks, Superintendent Uselton said any executive order would supersede the plan.

“We’ll see what kind of age limitation are in there, what limitations regarding medical conditions,” Uselton said. “We’ll have parents concerned with medical issues we’ll want to answer all those questions.”

Miss. districts re-evaluate back-to-school plans following executive order

The executive order said people with medical issues and kids under six are exempt.

DCS said masks are part of students’ school supplies lists and the district provided teachers and assistants with masks and face shields.

Reeves’ also signed an executive order Tuesday delaying the start of school for seventh through twelfth graders in some of the state’s current hotspots -- like Panola, Coahoma and Bolivar counties. In some of those districts, the start of the school years has already been switched to an all virtual start like in North Panola School District and West Bolivar Consolidated School District.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to school districts in Coahoma, Bolivar and Panola counties. West Bolivar Consolidated School District said it appreciates the governor’s aggressive approach, but said “the most recent executive order did not have a major impact on our district. We already pushed the start date back to Aug. 20 and made the decision to begin the year in a virtual learning format.”

South Panola School District said it will be released changes to its plan on Wednesday.

The executive order said districts in those counties and five others across Mississippi cannot start school until at least Aug. 17.

We have not heard back from the other districts.

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