BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Nearly 200 Biloxi High students and teachers are in quarantine after 11 people at the school tested positive for coronavirus.
Biloxi High has a total student population of 1,741 students. Of those, 185 students and teachers are now quarantined after contact tracing showed they may have been exposed to the virus.
Superintendent Marcus Boudreaux put out a plea to parents Thursday, asking them to help enforce social distancing and masks on the weekends.
The letter read, in part:
“The common theme found during contact tracing has been that the overwhelming majority of positive cases have been traced to social gatherings that occurred over the weekend. Things such as parties, sleepovers, get togethers, and hanging out with groups of friends. Those individuals that are choosing to participate in social gatherings are not only jeopardizing the school experience for themselves. Their choice is excluding hundreds of other students from the school setting.
While the school cannot control such activities, they are the driving factor that could result in a physical shut down of the school, athletics, and activities. We are begging for your help to prevent such an outcome. The efforts made during the school day to keep students socially distanced, masked up, and healthy are all negated with a few choices during the weekend.
Please assist us by choosing not to participate in such activities during the weekend.”
Contact tracing means anyone in close contact with a positive case is under 14 day quarantine. If after 14 days, no symptoms are present, including no fever, they can return to school.
“When a student or staff member is identified as being positive for COVID-19, the BHS staff begin the process of contact tracing to identify individuals that were within 6 feet of the positive individual for 15 minutes or more during the school day,” said the letter from Boudreaux. “As you can imagine, when dealing with 7 class periods, transportation, athletics, and activities for each student, the tracing is quite extensive and the number of close contacts adds up quickly.”
In all, 85% of the school’s students have returned to the traditional classroom.
“We want to keep that number [of students in the classroom] up,” said Jennifer Pyron with Biloxi Public Schools. “So as we go into another weekend, we want everyone to follow the social guidelines the state has in place.”
Fifteen percent of the students were signed up for virtual learning at the beginning of the year, said Pyron. Now, students who are in quarantine will also do virtual lessons until they can return to school.
“Students in quarantine automatically switch to our virtual learning program so they don’t miss any instruction,” said Pyron. “It’s a very seamless transition.
According to Pyron, none of the contact tracing pointed to students or teachers being exposed to the virus during athletics.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers echoed Boudreaux’s sentiment Thursday during the governor’s press conference.
“I would encourage everybody that if we want to continue to have those schools functioning and have on campus classes and have those kids educated then we need to do our part outside the school setting, too,” said Byers.
According to the Health Department, there are approximately 2,000 students across Mississippi that have been quarantined since school started this year.
Multiple districts have been transparent since school started with the number of students and teachers that have been quarantined due to the virus.
Jackson County School District has set up a website to track confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its schools.