Some schools reinstate mask mandates due to COVID spread

Published 12:43 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2022

NATCHEZ — Amid an uptick in local COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant takes hold of Mississippi, some local schools have revisited their COVID mitigation policies.

The Diocese of Jackson Office of Catholic Education, which governs Cathedral and Holy Family schools, issued updated COVID-19 protocols mandating masks for all students and staff regardless of their vaccination status effective Tuesday, Jan. 4.

The Concordia Parish School Board last week voted to issue a three-week mask mandate for students commencing when they returned to school from winter break on Monday.

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A special school board meeting was called to reinstate the mask mandate after Concordia Parish saw an increase in COVID-19 cases “at an alarming speed” after Thanksgiving, school superintendent Toyua Watson said.

Meanwhile, Natchez Adams School District never lifted its mandatory mask policy for all students, staff and campus visitors, said Tony Fields, the public engagement coordinator for the school district.

“We continue to mandate masks on all of our properties,” he said.

As of Tuesday, Fields said it’s unclear how the local rise in COVID-19 cases would impact student and teacher attendance. This week, the school hosted a partial return of students for an “intercession period” where only specific students were required to report for individualized instruction. The remaining students do not return to school from winter break until Jan. 10, Fields said.

“I can say that we have had a few staff not report because of either being infected or exposed to COVID-19,” he said. “Everyone is still being cautious and we’re thankful for it. We have some students and staff members back as a gauge of where we are but we’ll really know when everyone comes back on Jan. 10.”

Mask wearing remains optional at Adams County Christian School.

ACCS follows policy set by the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools, said Christina Daugherty, ACCS Vice-Principal.

When Gov. Tate Reeves issued an executive order requiring masks in public schools, MAIS set policy following the governor’s orders. However, when this requirement was lifted from the state level, masks have not been required since, Daugherty said.

“Mask wearing is up to the discretion of the parents,” she said. “To my knowledge that has not changed. We check for updated guidance from MAIS.”