School officials: No closures, mass athletic event cancellations planned

By JOSHUA WILSON,

Local school districts are not planning closures or mass cancellations of athletic events at this time.

According to the Mississippi Department of Education, schools are required to consult state health officials – along with the county health department – to determine when it is appropriate to close a school.

Dr. Thomas E. Dobbs III, state health officer for Mississippi, said in a press conference on Thursday in Hattiesburg that schools are not being asked to close at this time, but state health officials continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the Mississippi High School Activities Association – which regulates high school sports in the state – has advised schools not to cancel athletic events but could, in the future and as needed, restrict fan attendance and postpone or cancel competitions.

Local school officials, including Tess Smith of Lamar County School District, Matt Dillon of Petal School District and Brian Freeman of the Forrest County School District, released statements reiterating guidance from state health officials and the activities association.

The Hattiesburg Public School District said, in a statement on their website, that several events planned at the University of Southern Mississippi – including the Mississippi Science Olympiad, The Craft of Construction and Design Day and the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival – have been canceled, and that there will be no student assemblies at Hattiesburg High School.

Classes and events will also continue at Forrest County Agricultural High School, according to their website.

The area’s private schools, including Presbyterian Christian, Sacred Heart Catholic and Lamar Christian, are also continuing operations as normal.

At Presbyterian Christian, the multi-team, multi-state baseball tournament scheduled for next week in Vidalia, Louisiana, has been canceled.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, which governs school archery, has postponed the rest of archery meets for the season.

Spring break for most area schools is next week, March 16-20. Lamar Christian observed the break this week.