School educators worry as students depart campus during lifted mandate

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LOWNDES AND WINSTON COUNTIES, Miss. (WCBI) – As Mississippians adjust to Governor Reeves lifted mask mandate, school educators share possible COVID-19 concerns.

Mask enforcement for cities and counties remains optional. For K through 12 schools, students are required to keep those facial coverings present.

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Administrators are uncertain if the relaxed restrictions could affect the school system if not followed carefully.

There aren’t many changes to the protocol, but continuing the trend of fewer cases might be a challenge.

The Governor’s mask lifted mandate won’t apply to Mississippi schools.

“We’re always concerned when something changes at the state level or the federal level. Day to day for us at the school, we’re going to continue to the mitigation strategies that we’ve put in place that we’ve seen that work,” said Luke.

Superintendent David Luke of Louisville Municipal School District says the reason to wear a mask now serves a greater purpose.

“It makes you pause for thought because you consider what the possibilities might be if there’s another surge in numbers, an outbreak, or something of that sort,” said Luke.

Over 2,600 students enrolled in the district.

Since August of 2020, Luke says there have been confirmed cases.

“There are a wide variety of challenges. From time to time throughout the year, we did have certain numbers within our student population that tested positive. We have nobody to our knowledge today that is positive, and that may be a first for this year,” said Luke.

“We’ve had sensitive issues related to the COVID-19 disease. We want to make sure as we move forward, stay steadfast in our decision making, and prioritize the safety of our students,” said Dr.Cherie Labat, Superintendent of Columbus Municipal School District.

Dr.Labat says although case numbers have fallen quickly, educators are encouraged to get the vaccine lowering the risk of infection in the classroom.

“Our teachers are doing a great job of signing up for the vaccination. We understand it’s an important, personal choice the teacher has to make. We have to deal with the variability of people who may not want to get the vaccination,” said Labat.

Labat says the probability is higher as the CDC warned of new COVID-19 variants entering the U.S.

“One of the variants has a strong impact on younger children. I’m an educator, and that’s important to me. We’ll continue to follow those guidelines,” said Labat.

“We’re still under that executive order, and it’s something that works and needs to continue to practice,” said Luke.

Both districts will continue to monitor Coronavirus cases among students and teachers. Also, teachers are not required to get the vaccine.