Classroom in the pandemic

The district reported 72 total new cases, with 49 students and 23 staff members testing positive for the virus.

Additionally, 336 students were quarantined last week following possible exposure, down from last week’s 381 new student quarantines.

This week’s new cases and quarantines bring the total number of COVID-19 cases in the district since the start of the semester to 354 and the total number of those quarantined since the start of the semester to 1,774, according to data from the state.

The slight decrease comes off of two weeks of spikes in cases. Although the district saw fewer new cases last week, the numbers are still high compared to those of earlier weeks.

We did have more students in attendance this past week, since over 3,000 students chose to return to in-person instruction,” Cory Uselton, the superintendent of DeSoto County Schools, said in an email. “With flu season beginning and an increase in the number of students on campus, there was a strong probability that more in-person students would be getting tested for COVID. There are no plans at this time to change any COVID policies or procedures. Our teachers and administrators will continue to reinforce the policies that our school district currently has in place.”

DeSoto County Schools is the largest district in the state of Mississippi with over 30,000 students. About 13,000 of those students chose to start the semester by attending classes virtually. About 3,000 of those students returned to school recently for the second nine weeks of the semester.

Now, though, more students are returning to in-person classes. DeSoto County Schools allowed parents to move their children from virtual learning to in-person classes or vice versa for the second nine weeks of the semester, and about 10% of the students in the district will move from virtual learning to in-person classes.

This comes after some parents have voiced concerns about virtual learning difficulties, some saying that they could not see virtual learning working for the entire year. Some parents had technology issues while others said their children were not learning nearly as well as they do in person.

Uselton responded to those concerns, saying the district has been working to improve virtual learning since the start of the fall semester.

Uselton also noted a change in staffing this semester — there were fewer new teachers this year compared to last year.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who visited DeSoto County earlier this month, said that he was concerned about the impact of athletics on the ability of schools to safely stay open.

I think it's so important for us to make sure we prioritize the educational part,” Dobbs said earlier this month at a press conference. “I know that in Mississippi, we really pride ourselves on athletics, but that's also one of our bigger vulnerabilities.”

The data released by the district does not include that of private schools in the county or students who are quarantined by the Mississippi State Department of Health for situations unrelated to schools.

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