Local administrators now have decisions to make after Gov. Tate Reeves ordered all public schools in Mississippi to be closed for the remainder of the school year Tuesday afternoon.
Parents are reminded that distance learning will continue for all schools and school officials are not sure how this will affect graduation or promotion to the next grade.
Teachers will continue to get paid.
Reeves first ordered March 19 that all public schools to be closed through Friday, April 17 due to the spread of the coronavirus. All schools in Coahoma County had already extended their spring break one week at the time of that order.
The Governor then issued a stay-at-home order that closed all non-essential businesses on April 1. That order took effect at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3 and was mirrored by the city and county, virtually shutting down the community.
Administrators in Coahoma County said they were prepared for schools to be out for the 2020-21 academic year and agreed with the decision following Reeves’ announcement.
“I think we are no different than any other institution, in that we didn't know exactly what to expect,” said Marriel Hardy, spokesman for Coahoma Community College. “Information, especially in the beginning, was unclear and rapidly changing as experts gained more insight. We did, however, know to be prepared.”
CCC already planned to have its courses online for the remainder of the year, but the immediate future of Coahoma Early College High School, which is on the same campus, had not been determined.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a situation that has been constantly changing and we knew as an institution that we needed to be prepared to do everything necessary to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and, staff, as well as maintain our mission of student success,” Hardy said.
Clarksdale Municipal School District assistant superintendent Dr. Toya Matthews concurred.
“We, based on just of the growth of the numbers throughout the state, we were anticipating that this was a possibility,” she said. “I personally agree with the decision just because it’s not something that you want to take lightly. There’s no cure for this, no vaccine for this, so why would you endanger teachers and children?”
Coahoma County School District interim superintendent Dr. Ilean Richards said she was prepared for distance learning to continue for the remainder of the year, but wanted to wait until the official announcement to discuss the matter publicly.
“I agree with it for safety reasons because of the virus and the hazards associated with people coming together,” Richards said.
With graduation and other activities scheduled for the next couple of months, schools are being forced to make alternative plans in the coming days and weeks.
“Graduation is a momentous time in life and we want to make sure that we honor the hard work, grit, and tenacity that these 2020 graduates have displayed,” Hardy said. “We have no concrete plans at present, but hope to announce plans to celebrate these Tigers in the very near future.”
Matthews said CMSD officials have not stopped working since the virus began and will continue to provide distance learning with the digital or paper and pencil path.
“We’re going to continue those efforts to support them during this time,” Matthews said. “Because we anticipate that this may go beyond the semester being closed, we’re going to start planning for the summertime for interventions and remediation for our students.”
Matthews said Clarksdale High School principal Herbert Smith and his team have been working on contingency plans for graduation.
“We have not made that decision just yet as to what we’re going to do for graduation,” Matthews said.
“Right now, they’re just contingency plans. Nothing has been finalized as of yet.”
Matthews said there is still a possibility there could be a traditional graduation and summer program. She encouraged parents to continue checking the school’s website and social media pages for updates and contact principals with questions.
Richards plans to discuss further plans with the school board, principals and teachers.
“I’m going to call in some students to get opinions from them,” she said.
“Now that he (Reeves) has made his decision, we will be meeting this week to provide options for end of the year activities for students such as graduation.”