Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Oxford Students Will Return to School on Aug. 24 After Board Votes to Delay Opening

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

The Oxford School District Board of Trustees voted Wednesday afternoon to delay the start of school for another two weeks with the first day of school now starting on Aug. 24.

Schools were set to open on Monday; however, Superintendent Brian Harvey told the Board members that he believes holding off for two weeks is the best way to “ensure longterm success” in having students return to classrooms for face-to-face instruction.

Harvey said part of his decision came about after a discussion with Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi CEO Bill Henning who said the hospital was operating under a “stressed environment.”

“Our hospital capacity has always been one of the most important factors to me,” Harvey said.

Harvey said after reviewing data, with the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Lafayette County climbing over the last two weeks, combined with recommendations from Gov. Tate Reeves and State Health Director Dr. Thomas Dobbs, opening on Monday didn’t seem like the best option for the OSD.

“If we start on Monday, I feel we’d be forced into a long-term closure,” he said. “We need to take a breath and see where we are.”

Harvey cited the Corinth School District as an example. They opened schools last week and have five positive cases in their high school with 89 students quarantined.

Three board members – Romana Reed, Ray Hill and Carter Myers agreed and voted for the delayed start. Board members Denny Tosh and Betsy Smith voted against delaying the start of school.

“I don’t think it will be any better in two weeks,” Tosh said. “The majority of our parents are ready for their children to start on Monday.”

The new calendar removed fall break on Oct. 12. Students will be in school on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving with a half-day on that Wednesday. They will be off on Thanksgiving and the following Friday. The last day of school will be on May 28. Almost all teacher development days were removed from the school year calendar and teachers will be in professional development Aug. 17-21.

Harvey said the district gave parents until July 10 to decide if their child or children will attend school in person or do online instruction. By that deadline, about 32% of parents choose to keep their children at home. Harvey said since July 10, an additional 90 parents have asked to change their choice from in-school to online, and 60 of those requests came into the district after Gov. Reeves’ press conference on Tuesday.

“We want to accommodate parents, but we have to have a hard deadline on this,” he said.

The new deadline for parents to decide whether to send their children to school on Aug. 24 or use online instruction is at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7.

View the Zoom meeting online here.