By Alyssa Schnugg
Gov. Tate Reeves announced an executive order Tuesday delaying the start of the school year for students in grades seventh through 12th in eight counties, as well as a statewide mask order.
Oxford and Lafayette County start schedules will not change.
The counties that have a delayed opening include Forrest, Bolivar Coahoma, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington.
Oxford students will have a staggered opening with odd-numbered grades and pre-K starting on Aug. 10 and even-numbered grades and kindergarten starting on Aug. 11. All students return on Aug. 12, unless parents have opted for online instruction.
In Lafayette County, students are divided into Red Team or Gold Team depending on the first letter of their last name. The Red team starts Wednesday. The Gold team starts Friday, and all students return together on Aug. 24.
All children and adults at schools must wear masks unless exempted by a medical condition.
Also on Tuesday, Reeves issued an executive order requiring masks in retail stores and at public gatherings statewide. The order is for two weeks.
“We are starting to see an improvement in our state,” he said during a press conference Tuesday. “We are starting to turn a corner, but that doesn’t mean we can declare victory … If you wear a mask and social distance, it will make a difference.”
Oxford has had a mandatory mask order in place since March.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said everyone needs to “chill out” for a couple of weeks and try to stay at home when possible like a “mini self-quarantine.”
“Don’t go to that party. Don’t go to a shower. Send regrets to the wedding,” Dobbs said. “Just relax and don’t go to unnecessary social events for just a couple of weeks.”
Reeves and Dobbs were questioned on the effects of the orders on fall football.
“We haven’t made a decision on an executive order as it related to high school football. We’ve had extensive conversation with university leaders about what college football may look like,” Reeves said. “No one likes high school sports more than I do. I’m going to prioritize the education of our young people first and foremost. I believe there are many sports in high school that can be played a week from Friday night. I do not envision any scenario where there could be a large crowd in the stands to watch those football games.”