Seventh- and eighth-graders in Amite County are in quarantine for two weeks after teachers and students contracted coronavirus, Superintendent Don Cuevas said.

“We’ve had three of our eighth-grade teachers test positive, and we also have two kids that have tested positive because seventh and eighth share that building,” Cuevas said. “We decided to use the Mississippi Department of Health guidance to shut down the building two weeks.”

 He said Friday that seventh- and eighth-grade halls are on the first of their 14-day quarantine following three teachers getting the virus in two weeks.

“The quarantine is because of the staff, not because of the kids,” he said, adding that the district informed parents Thursday afternoon of the change.

“I told the board and the community we are going to be transparent. We are going to be honest because it’s just the way we have to be. This isn’t something everyone knows what to do.

“This is a different world for us. We have to weed our way through this.”

In addition to a building, the two grades share lunch and gym times.

Students in the two grades will learn virtually over the two weeks using Google Classroom. Cuevas noted that teachers are essential workers, so if they are able, they will come to work wearing face coverings.

He noted the availability of internet can be spotty in the rural county, adding that Liberty’s courthouse is willing to let students use WiFi, and the school’s parking lots also have WiFi accessibility.

The quarantined students will return to campus on Oct. 30.

Last week, Amite County High School reported to Mississippi State Department of Health that there were one to five new COVID-19 cases among school employees and none among students, while one was quarantined.

There was no data from Amite County Elementary School on the MSDH report for that same week, Oct. 5-9.

Cuevas said last week that the school was likely missing from the data due to reporting no new cases.

Since the MSDH has released individual school numbers, there has been no data reported for Amite School Center, a private school that is part of the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools, or from other MAIS private schools like Parklane Academy and Brookhaven Academy.

According to Department of Health spokesperson Liz Sharlot, private schools are required to report their virus numbers weekly, as are public schools. Private schools have the option to self-report or to report their numbers through the MAIS.

Sharlot said last week the MAIS has not reported anything to the Department of Health since Sept. 4 and had been given counsel by the Department of Health.

There have been very few cases of COVID-19 at ASC and no known outbreaks, and things have generally been going “better than any of us could’ve expected,” Headmaster John Knight said.

ASC has been sending weekly virus updates to the MAIS, Knight said, and he didn’t know why the MAIS would not have been reporting that data.

“I would advise all private schools to directly report to us as MAIS doesn’t seem to be complying,” Sharlot said.

Staff from the MAIS central office have not returned calls from Enterprise-Journal.

The MSDH school breakdown from Oct. 5-9 shows that North Pike High School reported one to five new employee virus cases, 14 new student cases, two teachers quarantined and 74 students quarantined.

But that data is not accurate, according to North Pike Superintendent Denis Penton.

North Pike schools did not appear on the Sept. 28 to Oct. 2 reports, but Penton said it was not for lack of submitting the numbers.

“We are reporting accurately and timely,” he said. “There have been some problems with the reporting at the state level. We’ve been trying to work with the state to find out why our numbers have not been reported. As a safety, we’re now going to be screenshotting all of our submissions.”

After two weeks of quarantine, North Pike’s entire football team was ready to play its homecoming game this past Friday.

Penton believes those students and other numbers reported from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2 were combined with the Oct. 5-9 report to cause the inflated numbers on the latter.

Sharlot said schools missing from reports may have not met the deadline to submit their numbers.

“Other than the outbreak on the football team, we’ve been able to manage our numbers very well,” Penton said.

The newest report also shows that North Pike Elementary had four students quarantined; the middle school had one to five new employee cases and one teacher and eight students quarantined; and the upper elementary had three students quarantined.

South Pike School District reported two teachers quarantined at Eva Gordon Upper Elementary School, two students quarantined at Osyka Elementary and one to five new student cases and four students quarantined at South Pike Junior High.

The McComb School District reported one employee quarantined each at Higgins Middle, Kennedy Early Childhood Center and McComb High.

The district’s classes were still all-virtual the week of that report.

Mississippi reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 statewide two days in a row. There were 1,322 new cases reported by Department of Health on Thursday — the highest daily number since August — and 1,116 reported on Friday.

The total number of cases for the state is 109,255.

Pike County reported 17 new cases over those two days, while Lincoln County reported 44 new cases. Amite reported 15, Franklin 20, Lawrence 10, Walthall one and Wilkinson 10.

There was one new death due to COVID-19 reported in Wilkinson. There have now been 20 total COVID-19 deaths in that county.

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