August 7, 2020 10:55:14 AM
Columbus students were back in school as of Thursday. Other Golden Triangle schools will follow suit between now and Sept. 1.
As COVID-19 cases in Mississippi have surged to more than 1,000 new cases a day, we are all holding our breath as our children return to school, hoping the safety protocols are effective in avoiding community spread among the students.
There is reasonable cause for concern. During its first weeks of classes, the Corinth School District reported six cases, leading to the quarantine of more than 100 students. On Thursday, a teacher and coach in the Lafayette County School District, died after being in self-quarantine and is, most likely, another fatality in a state where 1,825 had died of the virus as of Wednesday.
Those legitimate fears are compounded by the revelation that there is no requirement for school districts to disclose COVID-19 cases.
Governor Tate Reeves and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs are both encouraging school districts to release this information but admit there is no state requirement to compel them to do so.
Both Reeves and Dobbs said the state health department will begin releasing data on cases involving students on a county-by-county basis, but since not all students in a county attend the same schools in the same school district, that information won't provide parents the clear information they need.
To its credit, Corinth appears to have been very transparent in releasing information about the outbreak in its district, providing daily updates after positive test results.
While we would certainly hope that our local school districts will be just as forthcoming -- and there is nothing to suggest they will not -- we would like to see clear requirements that such information is released with as much detail as student privacy constraints permit and in a timely fashion.
Such requirements would give school districts clear guidance on what should be reported, how it should be disseminated and how quickly that the information should be reported.
That information is of far to great importance to allow too much latitude.
We urge the Mississippi Department of Education to quickly devise and implement requirements for disclosing student COVID-19 cases.
Knowing that cases in schools will be made public in an open and timely manner will of no small comfort in these dangerous times.
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