We are living in the middle of an unprecedented global crisis that is affecting our lives here in Clarksdale and the lives of our friends and families around the world. We’ve been forced to halt our social lives, cancel afternoons we’d planned to sit at ballfields, toilet paper is nowhere to be found, curfews are in place, families are forced home and unable to work and there’s an increased struggle to pay bills, among other unforeseen disruptions. But as with other disasters our community has seen, including flooding and disease, the people of Clarksdale are stepping in.
It’s difficult for us to comprehend why staying at home would have any effect on a virus that we see little evidence of outside of hype in the media and illness in other larger communities. But, as of this letter, there are 35 confirmed cases in Coahoma County, and testing last week will undoubtedly surface more. I hope this crisis ends soon, but I think we are in this together for the foreseeable future.
Now let’s talk about education. Students went into Spring Break with uncertainty and now Mississippi Public Schools will not return to campuses until April 20, but even that is looking questionable. Seniors in HS are staring down the stark reality that they may not have a prom, spring athletic seasons, or even commencement exercises. Families are learning to balance jobs with all-day supervision of children. Even more sobering are the children who may now face limited access to food and social/emotional health resources often provided by our schools.
I want to commend our schools and districts for the creativity with which they’ve responded to these issues. We’ve seen CMSD open meal distribution sites at campuses across our community. CCSD is bussing meals to students throughout the county. Our private schools are providing creative engagement opportunities including a collective “bear hunt” for families in conjunction with the book “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. In addition to basic needs, there is a digital divide that exists, especially in rural areas like Clarksdale, where students don’t have adequate access to internet at home. CCC is marking WiFi spots with signs and shared an interactive map that lists publicly accessible WiFi points throughout the state. Clarksdale Collegiate purchased hotspots for families that do not have internet access at home so students could continue with educational programs they’ve been using in the classroom all year. Staff at all schools are showing up to create packets of learning materials. Our educators are among the most ambitious and creative people in our community and I want to recognize their tireless effort during this time.
Clarksdale, we should be encouraged by the work that is being done to ensure students continue learning. If you have a chance, grab a few extra bottles of hand sanitizer and be ready to drop them off at school when they return. Call and check in on classmates, teachers, and families. And most importantly, STAY HOME for now.