Because of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in middle and high schools throughout the Lamar County School District – which district officials attribute mostly to out-of-school activity – grades 6 through 12 will transition to an A/B hybrid schedule beginning Oct. 26 and continuing until at least Nov. 20.
During a special-called meeting of the school district’s board of trustees on Oct. 22, board members voted 4-1 to institute the schedule, while continuing the virtual learning option. Under the plan, students will be separated into two groups – A and B – which will rotate each day between learning on campus and learning at home.
District E board member Buddy Morris provided the sole vote against the measure.
“In the last week, our middle schools and our high schools have experienced rising numbers of COVID cases with multiple outbreaks,” school district superintendent Steven Hampton said. “After getting direct guidance from the Mississippi Department of Health on both local and state levels, we had to decide to close one of our middle schools and also one of our high schools.
“These rising numbers have also caused large increases in the amount of students and teachers we’ve had to quarantine for 14 days in all our middle schools and high schools. These shutdowns and quarantines have affected the amount and quality of instruction that we’re providing to our middle school and high school students. In an effort to reduce the number of student and teachers we have to quarantine – and ultimately limit any more schools being shut down – we believe it is best and recommend that all middle schools and high schools implement an A/B hybrid schedule.”
Officials will reevaluate the situation the week before the school district’s Thanksgiving break.
“It’s not going to be a definite ‘we’ll continue hybrid,’ and it’s not going to be a definite ‘we’ll go to traditional,’ board president Deborah Pierce said. “We will look at the situation at that time and make a decision.
“If Dr. Hampton were to come to us at another meeting before Thanksgiving break, he can ask us to make a change at that time.”
Under guidelines from the department of health, officials are required to contact trace anyone who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, for 48 hours from the onset of symptoms or the date of the positive result.
“That person and anyone who has been in close contact with that person within those 48 hours has to be quarantined for 14 days from the onset of symptoms, or from the date of the positive test,” Hampton said. “On a daily basis, our middle and high school students come in contact with more different people than any other of our student populations.
“Outside of school, middle and high school students are typically more active in social events, participate in more activities, have jobs and so on. Inside of school, middle and high school students have to change classes from period to period because their instruction has to come from a teacher that is certified in each subject they take.”
Hampton said elementary school students are not as susceptible to catching the virus at school because those students don’t change classes throughout the day.
“We are able to better control the number of people they come into contact with throughout their school day,” he said. “This, along with the sanitizing and cleaning protocols that we have in place, elementary COVID-related numbers have been low, and we believe they will remain low.”