Jackson Public School district Superintendent Errick L. Greene said the district is sticking with a return to mostly in-person learning on Thursday, Jan. 6. Photo courtesy JPS
Students at Jackson Public School will resume in-person learning tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 6, with the district leadership sticking with the resumption plan announced in December amidst an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Superintendent Errick L. Greene stated during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday, Jan. 4, that the district will focus on enforcing appropriate mask wear, social distance. It has also established a 50% capacity restriction for indoor sporting activities and will resume disinfection measures in facilities twice a day.
"We have determined that, just given the surge, we want to reduce the number of individuals in the indoor facilities," Greene said.
Last week, the Mississippi State Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said that the state is in the midst of the fifth wave of COVID-19 spread. The latest figures from the Mississippi Department of Health showed that Thursday, Dec. 30, with 5,633 cases, had the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic for the state.
Greene said that having 83% of the approximately 3500 employees vaccinated puts the district in a good position.
"We're very proud of that and excited about that, and we believe that certainly puts us in a stronger stance to ward off the effects of the pandemic," he said.
The district requires those who are not vaccinated to have weekly testing on the district's dime to continue the mandate put in place in September.
Greene: ‘Scholars are Struggling in the Virtual Space’
At the beginning of last semester, the district offered a virtual learning option for those in Kindergarten up to grade 6 and continues this semester. If families want to opt out this semester, they have to inform the school.
The superintendent, however, argued that despite differences of opinion among stakeholders, experience shows that in-person learning is vital, and many families who initially opted for the virtual option switched to in-person later in the semester.
"And so for those who are wanting to pivot back to in-person, in spite of the looming pandemic and surge in cases, we understand that, and we stand ready to support those families," he said.
He noted that only about 1,600 were on virtual learning at the peak last year.
"Our scholars really need to be in school," Greene said. "The struggles that they had when we were all virtual or mainly virtual last year, some folks are still digging out of those holes."
"I think for a lot of us, including some educators, the belief was that once we have the technology in place, we're golden," he added. "What we found is that many, many educators and many, many more of our scholars are struggling in the virtual space."
"Not to mention the families that struggle to create the support for their baby at home or at grandma's or someplace else while they're learning virtually and the parents are working."
Vaccination Drive on Jan. 10
On Jan. 10, the district will offer an opportunity for people to take a second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Chastain Middle School (4650 Manhattan Road) and McLeod Elementary School (1616 Sandalwood Place).
"But we're also looking at scheduling additional vaccination events for those who've never been vaccinated at all, who've never had even one shot," Greene said Tuesday. "And so we are continuing to work with team members and those who might want to be vaccinated, offering vaccination drives and that sort of thing for adults as well as for our scholars."
"Our hunch is that the more convenient they are, the more families will avail themselves of those vaccinations."
Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.