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DeSoto County Schools will not require masks in buildings

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:07 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The largest school district in Mississippi will not require masks in schools despite guidance to the contrary from the state’s health department. DeSoto County Schools are back in class on August 5.

The largest school district in Tennessee and the largest district in Mississippi sit just a few miles away from each other. While Shelby County Schools announced it will continue to require masking inside schools, Desoto County Schools, which has less than half the students of SCS, will go the opposite route.

DCS Superintendent Cory Uselton confirmed the plan will not require masking, though the district’s back to school plan for the 2021-2022 school year is still being drafted.

“Right now there are no state mandates or local mandates requiring masks,” Uselton said. “Last year we were under a mask mandate because of the Governor’s executive order. There’s no executive order in place right now so that will be a parental decision.”

As part of its guidance for K-12 school settings the Mississippi Department of Health recommended masks for anyone not fully vaccinated. It also recommends those 12 and older get vaccinated.

Instead of encouraging either in a district plan, Usetlon said information from the health department, CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics will be shared with families.

State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said Mississippi is in the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases brought about by the highly contagious delta strain.

While Shelby County Schools just across the border decided on universal masking for students and staff, DCS, a district of more than 30,000 students, will take it on a school by school basis.

“We look at those [future cases] and see are we having clusters or teachers or clusters of students, then we try to make individual decision for each school because with 43 schools each situation is different,” Uselton said.

Superintendent Uselton says the district will continue monitoring case numbers every day and reporting COVID cases at the district. Over the last 24 hours Mississippi logged 961 cases and 8 deaths.

Uselton said the district will use Mississippi Department of Health recommendations for strategies for students to avoid quarantine if potentially exposed to the virus.

While anyone vaccinated will not need to quarantine, Uselton said families will have the choice to have their child quarantine for ten days if exposed, or the student can return to school but must test negative every two days and remain asymptomatic.

To find a vaccination location anywhere in the Mid-South click here.

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