Citing the rapid spread of coronavirus, Amite County School District officials announced Sunday that they’ll delay the first day of school until Sept. 8.

“After much deliberation, district leaders and school board members have decided that postponing the start date of the 2020-21 school year is in the best interest of our students, faculty, and community,” an announcement from the district read.

Amite County hasn’t seen a surge in coronavirus infections to the same degree as Pike or Walthall counties, but health officials have identified 210 cases and five deaths there since March. North Pike and Walthall County schools have their first day of class on Thursday. South Pike goes back on Aug. 10 and McComb returns Aug. 17.

“Keeping everyone healthy and safe is extremely important to us,” the notice read. “With the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 virus, we think this is the best decision for everyone.”

Administrators across the state are approaching the issue from different angles, with some electing to resume instruction in-person as usual while others are advocating for a completely virtual school year. Amite County took a hybrid approach, which Superintendent Don Cuevas said he believes will help protect staff and students while promoting academic growth.

Students must take important state examinations this year and administrators are working to prepare them despite the difficult circumstances.

School districts were required to submit their respective reopening plans to Gov. Tate Reeves by Friday. Reeves said he and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs would review the plans over the weekend and offer recommendations to district administrators this week.

Amite County School District administrators chose earlier in the summer to implement a hybrid of in-person and remote education plan in which half of the students would attend classes on two days of the week and would take instruction online two other days. Wednesday is reserved for cleaning school buildings.

“We would like to assure all community members that we will do everything possible to keep our children safe each and every day,” Cuevas said. “Thank you for your support.”

Conducting the school year online in its entirety may not be feasible for rural districts such as Amite County, where some students may not have adequate access to broadband internet.

The hybrid schedule will be evaluated for modifications and adjustments every two weeks.

Dobbs said the Mississippi State Department of Health would recommend all students and staff wear masks while at school and that he expects infections to surge when the school year begins and college students return to their campuses around the same time

The Corinth School District returned to classes in person last Monday and reported its first positive case on Friday. Administrators determined that 14 students were directly exposed to coronavirus through interactions with the infected student.

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