A bus passes debris on Saturday, March 25, 2023 in Silver City, Miss. Emergency officials in Mississippi say several people have been killed by tornadoes that tore through the state on Friday night, destroying buildings and knocking out power as severe weather produced hail the size of golf balls moved through several southern states. (AP Photo/Michael Goldberg)
Interim State Superintendent Mike Kent said the state Department of Education has worked to remove obstacles and provide resources to help classes resume and get students back on track.
On March 24, 2023, tornadoes and severe weather swept throughout the State of Mississippi, damaging homes, businesses, and entire communities. Schools, too, were heavily impacted.
Among the school districts impacted by the storms were Amory County School District, Carroll County School District, Humphreys County School District, Monroe County School District, New Albany Public Schools, South Delta School District and Winona-Montgomery Consolidated District.
Last week, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) announced that all but one of the school districts affected by the March 24th storms had reopened. The last, South Delta (SDSD), resumed classes on Friday, April 14th.
Interim State Superintendent of Education Mike Kent said the Department has been working with school district leaders to help them overcome obstacles to resume school as quickly as possible.
“We will continue to provide support to all affected districts, particularly the South Delta School District, whose community was the most severely damaged,” Kent said.
In the SDSD, all faculty, staff and students will be housed at South Delta Middle School, which has been cleared for use following repairs and safety inspections.
After the storms, MEMA provided a severe weather update, including information about the school districts affected by the storms. In SDSD, a cafeteria staff member was among the fatalities reported in the storm. In Carrol County, one teacher and one student lost their lives while in Humphreys County, one teacher died. Those districts continue to not only face the physical damage left by the storms but also grapple with the emotional loss of those lives.
As for the logistics on making up required school days and employees receiving their pay, MEMA has said those concerns have been address.
“All school districts have 10 weather days they do not need to make up,” MEMA stated. “The Governor’s declared State of Emergency allows staff who are displaced from school buildings to continue to be paid.”
MDE said they have provided school districts across the state with guidance on enrolling displaced students that may have moved or relocated due to the damage.
“Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, children and youth displaced by natural disasters meet the definition of homeless and are, therefore, eligible for McKinney-Vento services,” MDE said. “Those services include parents and guardians being able to immediately enroll a student into another district regardless of access to birth certificates, vaccination records and other documents.”
Additionally, the Department noted that they have provided all school districts in the state maximum flexibility for scheduling statewide assessments by extending the statewide testing window on most assessments.
“If needed, tornado-affected districts may seek to extend scheduling of the 3rd grade reading assessment and assessments for seniors who need to retake an assessment to meet graduation requirements,” MDE explained.