COVID at school: How the year is going

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Schools have been in session since early August and school administrators are pleased overall with the way things are progressing.

Brookhaven Academy Elementary Principal Page Nelson said the outlook is “encouraging for this school year.”

“The school atmosphere at Brookhaven Academy is positive,” Nelson said. “The COVID-19 quarantine list has remained minimal, with no school closures and a regular daily schedule.”

Dr. Rod Henderson, superintendent of the Brookhaven School District, said his schools made a plan and have confidence in its effects.

“We continue to adhere to the return-to-school plan we put into place regarding COVID-19,” he said. “I do believe our staff and students have done a great job in understanding and sticking with the plan. We do face supply issues in various areas, but we are adapting and continuing to operate the district in an efficient manner.”

Henderson said he’s pleased with how things have turned out so far in the school year.

“I expect great things from our students, despite the obstacles we currently face,” he said. “We are focused on taking the next step and, with the help of our staff and community, we will succeed.”

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Dr. David Martin said the number of positive test results for the coronavirus in the county schools has been very low among 3,200 students, faculty and staff.

Though there have been 154 COVID-positive students since the first day of school — Loyd Star has had 51, Enterprise 56 and Bogue Chitto 47 — the majority of these cases occurred very early in the year, and most were determined to have occurred from exposure somewhere other than at school. Recent numbers posted weekly by the Mississippi State Department of Health reveal no new positive cases among students or staff.

Only 17 positive test results have been reported among Brookhaven School District students since the first day of school, and zero in recent days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which considered reopening schools for in-person learning during the 2021-2022 school year as beneficial for students, offered safety recommendations including:

• vaccination as “the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic”

• universal indoor masking by all, regardless of vaccination status

• physical distance between students in classrooms

• screening testing, ventilation, hand washing and respiratory “etiquette”

• staying home if sick

• cleaning and disinfection

• layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently)

While CDC recommendations are in effect for sanitation, masks are optional on campuses.

To continue the focus on safety and prevention at BA, “outside visitors have been limited to activity on campus during school hours, but afterschool activities and athletics have been open and available,” Nelson said. “Collaboration among students, parents, faculty, staff and patrons has led to a successful educational environment.”

In late October, Henderson said he felt that the Brookhaven district positive test numbers were low enough that he felt comfortable lowering the school’s mask policy to “highly recommended” rather than mandatory. Masks remain mandatory for the district on school-owned transportation, however.

Martin said he is satisfied the data he has reviewed shows progress in the overall health landscape of the schools in regard to COVID.

“I’m a numbers guy,” Martin said. “The data seems to show good results right now.”