South Pike’s head nurse, Felicia Scott, said it’s a good thing that the district returned from Christmas break to all virtual classes.

With cases of COVID-19 rising in the community, averaging well more than 2,000 a day statewide, “if the children were in school, it would increase the spread. Children are superspreaders,” she told school board members Thursday.

While children often show few if any symptoms, she said they can still spread the virus, and would be more likely to do so after big family Christmas gatherings.

“We still need to wear masks and social distance,” Scott said. “We don’t know how COVID will affect one person versus another.”

She said gatherings as late as New Year’s weekend could push the peak of holiday-transmitted infections to near Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the 18th.

Students will return to schools in the district soon, Scott said, but if students were in school now, it could have led to a lot of quarantines, since just three cases in a class is considered an outbreak.

“If they come to school sick, they will spread it,” she said.

Scott, stationed at the Eva Gordon campuses, and high school nurse Lytanga Hampton have been vaccinated against COVID-19, she said, and Osyka Elementary School nurse Glinda Brinkley is scheduled to be vaccinated soon.

Access to the vaccine will be opened to teachers soon, and board member Dr. Luke Lampton said teachers should be encouraged to get the vaccine.

“They’ll still need to mask and social distance; the vaccine isn’t 100% effective,” he said. But, “they should take it to help protect their fellow teachers.”

Scott said she hoped none of the teachers would be deterred from being vaccinated.

“A lot of people are fearful because they listen to word of mouth, and that’s usually incorrect,” she said.

Athletic Director Hilton Harrell told the board that the district’s coaches have been through courses on dealing with COVID-19 required by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

Student-athletes have masked and distanced as much as possible while practicing, he said, and district personnel have done their best to enforce masking, distancing and the use of hand sanitizer among spectators at games.

“We announce reminders about wearing masks, and the police and myself will tell people to wear their masks, or they need to go,” Harrell said.

Among other reports to the board:

• Osyka principal Angela Lowery said students there are showing growth on Star and iReady computer assessments, but “we’re not where we usually are.”

She said some of the most recent results may have been affected by teacher absences, such as maternity leave for the sixth-grade reading teacher and COVID quarantine for a pre-kindergarten teacher.

She told board members that the school can’t offer hot-spot service for online students yet, but district maintenance coordinator Mike Scott said fiber optic lines are being laid along Highway 51 to bring high-speed service to the school.

Eva Gordon Upper Elementary School principal Geneva Holmes said students there are also showing growth, but in many cases not enough to move to a higher tier of demonstrated learning.

• High school counselor Tyrone Varnado said the school had 488 students enrolled in December, with 358 hybrid and 130 online only.

He said he wants to see all 117 seniors graduate.

“They will all meet the requirements, hopefully,” he said.

Though almost all of the district is under virtual instruction for now, he said there are 16 students still coming to the school campus who are self-contained special education students.

• Junior high principal Warren Eyster said the school has 269 students enrolled, of which about 40 are online only.

Almost 98% of those students are in school each day, along with 94.45% of the school’s teachers.

“That’s actually a little low for us,” he said.

He noted that the school’s Junior Beta Club donated about 300 toys to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program before Christmas.

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