Mississippi teachers rally at State Capitol for delayed reopening of schools

Updated: Jul. 17, 2020 at 11:06 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The newly formed “Mississippi Teachers Unite” held a rally at the State Capitol on Friday.

They’re asking for teachers to sign a letter to the Governor that calls for various items including delaying schools restarting till at least after labor day.

Mississippi has what’s called “local rule” authority. Because of that, the state board can’t issue a blanket policy on exactly how to start back to school.

Mississippi Professional Educators is asking the State Board to lobby our congressional delegation to support any federal legislation to offset the added costs of local districts.

And they’re also asking the to waive the state assessments and accountability requirements.

“MDE must postpone a dangerous reopening until at least September 1 to ensure a safe school environment,” read one teacher from the letter they plan to send to the Governor.

“I want to see my students more than anything but I want them to be alive more than anything,” said Leland school teacher Alex Melnick. “And as people said before, we can’t teach that students. I can’t show up to work if I’m dead.”

And they don’t think the money is there for the return to be a safe one.

“We usually have running water,” said Jackson Public School librarian Cat Chambers. “We never have soap and rarely have paper towels. So, I don’t really see how this is going to happen. The supplies that I have I’m going to have to buy for myself.”

Some parents echoed those concerns.

“I want my kids to get an education but if this is going to destroy it then I ask they do what they need to do,” explained mother Yolanda Jackson. “If it can’t be September 1… Guess what? It needs to open up once this virus is gone.”

Within hours, Governor Tate Reeves was addressing some of these same topics at his briefing.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics said that closing schools could in fact itself push children to a higher risk of death,” said Reeves. “They’re right. We have to provide the structure for children.”

In the way of safety, he says it shouldn’t be an issue.

“At least $150 million is going to schools to pay for masks, hand sanitizer and other necessary PPE,” Reeves explained.

Districts have until July 31 to finalize their plans for the fall semester.

“They want me to do an executive order mandating that every school acts exactly the same,” noted Reeves. “As of today, I do not see that as the best course of action.”

Governor Reeves says he had a meeting with the State Superintendent and chairman of the State Board of Education today. He says they’re all in agreement that a return to school can and will be done safely.

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