FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - Gov. Tate Reeves has issued an executive order for eight Mississippi counties to push the first day of school to Aug. 17 for grades 7 through 12. Forrest County is one of those eight counties.
School districts in Forrest County are taking that a step further and delaying the start for all grades until Aug. 17.
The Hattiesburg School District will reopen in phases starting Aug. 17. Phase one will be all students going completely virtual until Sept. 4.
“We’re going to provide instructions either virtually, online, or we will deliver paper packets from Aug. 17 to Sept. 4,” said Hattiesburg Superintendent Robert Williams.
Williams says all students will return on Sept. 8 under the school’s hybrid method.
“We will go ahead and start school using our hybrid method,” Williams said. “What our hybrid method is and what that consists of, that’s when our students will attend school on alternate days. We’ve divided our student population in half.”
The Petal School District will have students returning on Aug. 17 and Aug. 18 with a staggered start. Students will also be required to wear masks.
“In the best interests of our families and our family units, we think it’s important that their schedules mirror each other from a calendar stand point,” said Petal Superintendent Matthew Dillon. “In the past, part of our planning included masks in motion. Any time you are moving, whether you’re arriving during the day, transitioning classes, leaving on the buses and things like that. Now we have to expand that based on the order.”
Dillon says students will be able to return to traditional matters. Classrooms will have multiple sanitation stations and desks will be spread out for social distancing.
“Instead of funneling students all to one area, we’re maximizing all of our square footage on all of our campuses,” Dillon said. “We’ve decluttered classrooms to the best of our abilities. When feasible, we’re spreading out as much as we can in our classroom to ensure that we have the safest environment for our students but also for our staff.”
Forrest County School District Superintendent Brian Freeman says they are prepared to welcome all students both traditionally and virtually on Aug. 17.
“It’s certainly something that was not totally a surprise,” Freeman said. “We have been getting prepared to start, and we’ve got lots of families that are ready for children to start. We also understand the concern.”
Prior to Reeves’ order, Hattiesburg and Forrest County school were going to start on Aug. 10, while Petal schools were scheduled to start on Aug. 6.