Local schools battling COVID among students, staff

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2021

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FERRIDAY — As area schools announced they would return to in-person classes after closing Monday due to Hurricane Ida, Ferriday High School remained closed and students are participating in distance learning.

Concordia Parish School Superintendent Toyua Watson said a temporary change to virtual learning for students in Ferriday was made necessary by Hurricane Ida while the school was already having a shortage of teachers due to COVID-19.

While most of Concordia Parish was spared from the storm, a great deal of teachers who live in Mississippi are without power, she said.

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Without enough teachers, it becomes harder to keep the student-to-teacher ratio down and social distance.

The school should return to in-person classes by next Tuesday after Labor Day, Watson said.

“We have to think about not only your students but our staff as well,” she said. “Right now, we have staff members who are hurting and couple that with COVID, we had no choice but to close the school.”

Because the students are still in school and are only doing distance learning for four days, it should not affect any athletic programs, she said.

Watson said the school district as a whole total of 36 people out who are COVID-19 positive and a total of 233 students who are quarantined — most of them for exposure and not for illness in accordance Louisiana Department of Education guidelines.

“We have over 3,000 students in the parish and over 500 staff and this is the first time (this school year) we’ve had to close a school,” she said.

Mississippi State Department of Health data from the week of Aug. 16 through 20 states that Cathedral School has had 60 students and one teacher quarantined due to possible COVID exposure. Cathedral has had 10 students and between one and five teachers tested positive, MSDH states.

Natchez Adams School District Public Communications Director Tony Fields said a total 18 students and staff across the district are currently COVID-19 positive and 27 students are quarantined.

Natchez Adams School District has had one instance at the beginning of the year where two kindergarten classes at McLaurin Elementary had to participate in distance-learning due to COVID-19, he said.

“Since then, we haven’t any incidences where we had to go virtual because of COVID,” Fields said. “We do contact tracing and whoever has been around a student or faculty member for a certain amount of time, per the guidance of the health department, we notify those students and parents. We only notify those who have been directly exposed. In each instance, we are in direct contact with the health department for guidance.”

Adams County Christian School headmaster David King did not return calls for comment.