Reeves announces Mississippi schools will remain closed

Published 2:38 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Mississippi schools will stay closed for the remainder of the school year as efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus continue.

Gov. Tate Reeves made the announcement Tuesday afternoon during a press conference, but said students will continue their distance learning efforts already underway.

“School buildings in Mississippi will remain closed for the rest of the semester,” the governor said. “That does not mean school is canceled. “No one wants to shut down our schools.”

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The state’s schools were closed March 19 when Reeves issued an order to do so. The order was to have continued until Friday, but Reeves’ Tuesday announcement will keep children out of classrooms for the remainder of the school year.

Exactly what this means for graduation status or advancement to the next grade for students was not immediately clear. Reeves indicated the Mississippi Department of Education would provide guidance to school districts and parents soon.

“The vast majority of students are participating in learning today,” he said.

Reeves said he believed if students were following advice from their teachers, doing the work through distance learning, they should proceed to graduate or advance to the next grade.

“We will get through this, together,” Reeves said.

Shortly after Reeves made his decision public, the Vicksburg Warren School District, who had switched all of its students to online and distance learning weeks ago, said those programs will continue.

“Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has closed school buildings through the end of the spring semester. Distance learning will continue through the end of the school year. Additional details will be provided as they become available,” the statement on social media said.

And the decision did not just impact the public school systems.

Dr. Calvin Masterson, president of the board at Porter’s Chapel Academy, said their board Monday had decided to follow whatever guidance and decision Reeves would announce.

“We had discussed this at our school board meeting Monday night and had decided we would follow the protocol Gov. Reeves put in place,” Masterson said. “And, we will continue with our distance learning.”

He also added the board had set a tentative date of June 5 for the school’s graduation services.

“But that date could change if sheltering in place lasts longer,” Masterson said, adding a rescheduled prom is likely. “Our seniors deserve to have a prom and graduation and our board will do everything to fulfill this for them.”

As for school-related athletics, the Mississippi High School Activities Association and Mid-South Association of Independent Schools had both suspended athletic competitions, practices and other extracurricular activities while schools remained closed. It was not immediately clear, however, whether the latest closure also meant the end of high school sports for this 2019-20 school year. 

MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said his organization’s executive committee would meet either later Tuesday or early Wednesday to vote on a plan of action. MAIS executive director Shane Blanton could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We’ll take the statement that the governor makes and we’ll make a decision based off of what he says,” Hinton said. “We don’t make a decision without meeting with the executive committee first.”