School delayed until Aug. 17th

The Stone County School District voted to push back the school starting date and upheld restrictions for virtual students at the special called meeting Wednesday, August 5.

Gov. Tate Reeves mandated school districts in eight counties push back classes for Seventh-12th grade in addition to issuing a statewide mask mandate for the next two weeks.

In response, the district voted to begin classes on August 17 and extend registration until August 14 for students who choose an on-campus and virtual option.

Superintendent Inita Owen said the modified schedule would result in the school year ending on June, 4.

Owen said decisions made on the state level will determine changes that happen throughout the district.

In two weeks, Gov. Reeves could extend the mask mandate or let the order expire for many counties.

“Whatever he mandates is what we’ll enforce,” Owen said.

At the previous board meeting, two parents complained the district policy banning virtual students from participating in extracurricular and sports was too restrictive.

After agreeing to revisit the matter at a special meeting, the board upheld the current policy.

The original policy was made after considering the Mississippi High School Activities Association bylaws, which gives individual districts the choice to allow or not allow virtual students to participate in extracurriculars.

MHSAA is the governing body for all academic and athletic competitions in the state of Mississippi. The association presides over all public junior high and high schools in addition to some private schools, according to their official website.

The policy states: “MHSAA bylaws allow non-traditional students (virtual) to participate in athletics if they have met all other MHSAA eligibility requirements.

However, the local school system(s) may have more restrictive guidelines. If a school or school system prohibits virtual school students from athletic/activity participation, it is a local school decision.”

Owen said she and many school administrators had concerns about the complications involved in allowing parents to pick and choose how students could be involved on campus.

“I have a really hard time if you can come into the choir hall and sing, but you can’t go into the math hall and learn math,” Owen said.

Owen said many extracurriculars like the band, choir and sports are scheduled during school hours.

She listed several factors including schedules that would make managing virtual and on-campus students more difficult for the administration to juggle.

“I love extracurriculars but actually we’re here for education,” Owen said.

Owen said teachers are stressed about the upcoming school year and trying to balance virtual and in-person teaching.

“I just don’t want to add anything else extra to their plate that we don’t have to,” she said.