At this time, DeSoto County Schools (DCS) parents filling out a shopping list for their children returning to the classroom on Aug. 5 won’t have to include a required face mask on that list.
There’s been several items regarding coronavirus that have happened in recent days. For instance, cases of coronavirus have been heading upward in recent weeks with more cases of COVID-19’s Delta variant being reported. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis this week announced it was requiring its employees to all be vaccinated to work there.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control Dr. Rochelle Walensky also said Friday, July 17 that coronavirus cases nationally are up 70 hi percent and 97 percent of those hospitalized have the Delta variant.
But the largest public school district in Mississippi will continue to not require face masks for the 2021-22 school year.
DCS Supt. Cory Uselton responded to a question about the district’s plans to address coronavirus in the district, in light of recent events and new recommendations by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), by sending the points of emphasis in the Back-To-School Plan for the 2021-22 season. They remain much the same as when the Board of Education approved the plan in April.
Among those points of emphasis is one stating that masks will not be required in the district.
“Our back-to-school plan does not require masks for our students and staff,” Uselton said in a text. “We will continue to monitor cases in our schools just as we did throughout the 2020-21 school year to determine if any adjustments need to be made to our plan.”
It should be added that any additional information regarding health and safety protocols will be released on the DeSoto County Schools website by Friday, July 23.
Uselton added that the district will still continue to use many health and safety protocols for DCS students and staff.
Another point for parents to be aware of is that conditions will be monitored on a daily basis throughout the school year and if adjustments need to be made, parents will be notified by email.
The Back-To-School Plan’s highlights reflect some pre-pandemic items about how the school day will be handled. There will be no 70 percent days on Fridays, as there were last school year. That is because the Mississippi Department of Education’s one-year waiver on minimum instructional minutes per day has ended. Bell schedules will be very similar to what each school had before the pandemic.
The attendance requirement in the DCS exemption policy in effect last year will be in effect again this year.
Each school campus, from elementary through high school, will have a full-time, on-site nurse this year.
School assemblies, field trips, campus visitors, etc. will return to pre-pandemic procedures, although each principal will be setting the parameters for those events.
Students will also have free breakfast and lunch available this year, thanks to a waiver by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Schools are also moving away from water fountains to installing water bottle filling stations and encouraging students and staff to bring their own water bottles for liquid refreshment during the school day.
The Mississippi State Department of Health updated its guidance for COVID-19 on Friday, July 16 with the following recommendations regarding K-12 schools.
- Students age 12 and above, teachers and staff should be vaccinated.
- No masks are recommended for fully vaccinated persons while indoors in school settings.
- If exposed, no quarantine or testing is needed for fully vaccinated people unless symptoms develop.
- Masks should be worn indoors in school settings by those not fully vaccinated.
- Masks are not recommended for fully vaccinated individuals, although schools can make their own policies to address masks.
- Schools should continue to isolate and exclude infected students, teachers and staff members, and continue contact tracing.
The entire list of recommendations by the MSDH about schools and coronavirus is found on the MSDH website.
Bottom line, face masks won’t be required in DCS schools when classes start on Aug. 5. School operations will return to resemble activities before the pandemic began, but the district reserves the right to make changes if needed to keep youngsters learning and safe at the same time.