One would be forgiven if they thought summer break had come early.

With schools closed through mid-April, many children can be seen running around neighborhoods playing pickup games of basketball or furiously attacking each other with water guns.

Students across Mississippi suddenly became homeschoolers and now have a lot more free time on their hands, but McComb School District Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Ellis said that does not mean they should be treating this time like summer break.

McComb schools recently pulled hoops off of basketball goals at Summit Elementary and Higgins Middle schools to keep students from playing after Summit Mayor Percy Robinson called the school administration and said he noticed large groups of children playing basketball at the elementary.

Magnolia officials recently took down basketball hoops and removed swings from swing sets in an effort to keep kids out of Central Park.

The moves come as local mayors issued executive orders based on the guidelines the Centers for Disease Control put in place, which enforces social distancing and limiting groups to 10 or less.

“As a school district, we are to adhere to what the mayor has put in place. If we can do anything in our power to help the mayor, we will,” Ellis said.

Ellis stressed the importance of following the CDC guidelines and wants children and their parents both to know the severity of the situation, not just in the community but around the world.

“We want our young people to take this seriously because they have loved ones that they need to protect as well,” he said. “We apologize if this is inconveniencing any of our students and our parents, but this is something we have to adhere to.”

Ellis said if the community as a whole does not take the virus seriously, progress to curb its spread will slow down significantly. He added that all parents are their children’s role models, and parents should model the behavior they want their children to follow.

“We can get back to a sense of normal life if we follow these guidelines, but if we don’t, it will only take longer,” he said. “If we totally disregard what our health officials are telling us, I don’t know how we can turn this around.

Ellis said the district plans to follow any recommendations to protect the lives of the children they serve.

“We love our scholars. We love our children in McComb, and we love all the kids in Pike County,” Ellis said. “We don’t want anything to happen to any child in Pike County. It is my hope that any child and parent in Pike County knows we are trying to protect them and protect their lives.”

North Pike Superintendent Dennis Penton agreed with Ellis and said all students and parents need to follow the guidelines of the CDC, but that does not mean children are strictly confined in their home.

Penton encouraged children to spend time outside with their parents. He said it is important to get fresh air and spend time outside to ward off the cabin fever the may come as a result of the prolonged quarantine.

“Get outside of the house and enjoy the outdoors and sunshine with your parents,” Penton said, but he stressed that students should limit the number of people they interact with to family members only. “Do not congregate in the neighborhood because it is a communicable disease.”

South Pike Superintendent Dr. Donna Scott said her school district is taking the virus seriously as well and has put resources online to aid in learning, but she plans to add language to its Facebook page and website about CDC guidelines.

“We are doing all that we can by putting resources online,” Scott said. “We will certainly try to keep them as informed as possible.”

She said the most important thing a parent can do it to encourage their child to keep up with their work daily and worry less about grades and more about keeping up learning skills.

“Parents need to understand that it’s important that students are working on the packets. This is a challenging time, and it is not learning like in the classroom, so it is going to require much more from the students to stay on task.”

She said if students have internet, they should navigate the district’s provided websites because they have games and activities for students to spend time on instead of going outside in large groups.

“This is something none of us faced before,” she said.

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