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Local parents cope with suspension of area schools amid virus outbreak

NATCHEZ — Local school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have left parents in a period of uncertainty about their children’s education and care.

Some parents are seizing the opportunity to spend quality time with their children out in the open air where they are less likely to come in contact with the disease than they would be in close quarters.

For Shawn Horton and her two daughters, the extended spring break caused by the COVID-19 virus has added more playtime in the park to their daily routine.

Two-year-old Riley isn’t enrolled in school yet and four-year-old Kanyah is enrolled at Head Start but is a little too young to fully understand why she isn’t in school, Horton said.

“She (Kanyah) asks me every day when she can go back,” Horton said. “She knows that people are sick but that’s about it.”

It’s safer and healthy for the girls to be out on the playground instead of confined in a room with a large group of children and it’s not so hard to keep them entertained, Horton said.

The pandemic has caused some working parents with young children to rearrange their schedules for childcare purposes.

Jennifer Smith and Sarah Williams, longtime friends and co-owners of Magnolia Mariées Bridal Boutique, had to close up shop briefly last week after schools announced they were closing so they figure out childcare arrangements.

Smith said she has a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old who both attend school at Cathedral and Williams’ children attend Adams County Christian School.

They are now manning the shop in shifts while their work counterpart stays at home with the children, Smith said.

“We’re going by appointment only now and rotating shifts,” Smith said.

Typically, spring is the busiest time of year for the shop, between students buying prom dresses and brides shopping for spring weddings in Natchez.

However, with school being canceled and other spring events, Smith said the virus has left her and other downtown shops in a period of uncertainty.

“We just have to wait and see,” she said. “If this keeps up it’s going to hurt Natchez tremendously.”

Some schools have provided access to online learning resources to help their students stay caught up.

Ashley Carpenter said her sixth and eighth-grade sons from Robert Lewis Magnet School, Timothy and Keegan, were both given assignments via email to keep them occupied over the prolonged Spring Break.

“Most of their teachers have texted or emailed something for them to do just to try to keep them up to standard. Some teachers are a little more strict than others,” Carpenter said.

In Louisiana, Concordia Parish Superintendent Whest Shirley said at-home learning resources would also be provided both online and in print to help students stay caught up but are not required.

For those without internet access, take-home learning packets will be distributed at each school site from 10 a.m. until noon today, March 18. Optional online resources are available on the district’s website at cpsbla.us.

Cathedral and Adams County Christian School have also provided a list of online learning tools and teacher contact information to parents via email.

“Some of the (closings) seem a little excessive but I can also see how it could be beneficial, especially for kids who have older people living with them in their homes,” Carpenter said.