JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to allow school districts mandated by the governor to delay the start of the school year because of the coronavirus the ability to cut up to 10 days from their academic calendars.
School districts in Mississippi are required to provide 180 days of instruction each academic year to students. However, Thursday's order by the Board of Education will allow eight counties hit hard by the coronavirus to shave off some of that time.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, on Tuesday delayed the start of school for grades 7-12 in eight counties with more than 200 cases and 500 cases per 100,000 residents. The counties are Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington.
“We must pump the brakes in the hardest-hit areas,” Reeves said Tuesday.
The Board of Education's change only gives those eight counties the option to wave up to 10 days. District officials are not required to cut any days from their calendar.
“The purpose of this is to acknowledge that our administrators are trying to reset their academic calendar,” Board of Education chair Dr. Jason S. Dean said during a special meeting Thursday.
The Health Department said Thursday that Mississippi, which has a population of about 3 million, has had at least 64,400 reported cases and at least 1,825 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday evening. That’s an increase of 956 confirmed cases and 21 deaths from numbers reported the day before.
The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.