If we want to keep kids in the classroom, we have to do the right thing and mandate masks in all our schools

The following is a joint statement from the Mississippi Association of Educators and the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Our state’s hospitals are completely overwhelmed. There is no bed space available to adequately serve patients – COVID or otherwise – and the end of this wave is nowhere in sight. Medical professionals are bracing for the consequences of schools continuing to operate without universal masking in place, frightened of what it could mean for a hospital system that’s already been pushed to the brink.  

Educators are happy and relieved to be back in our classrooms, but we are wary of being driven from them again. Without meaningful statewide guidance, school districts have been left to fend for themselves. District leaders are scrambling to implement measures to stop the spread of COVID while trying to placate irate parents on both sides of the masking issue with no support. In just the first few days of the fall semester in districts across Mississippi, COVID outbreaks have forced schools to send students home in droves or required a pivot to virtual learning. As of Monday, In Lamar County alone, nine of nineteen schools have been forced to move to virtual learning and the entire district has moved to hybrid instruction due to the number of COVID cases that exploded in only a matter of days.  

Educators, medical professionals, parents, state leaders – we all want kids in classrooms. But if our priority is to safely keep our students in schools, we need to do what we can to mitigate the spread of COVID. It’s that simple. To do that, we need a layered approach: one that involves universal masking alongside other proven measures such as vaccination for all eligible adults and students and well-ventilated instructional spaces. We are in the midst of a statewide crisis, and while we would typically defer to local officials knowing their communities’ specific needs better than anyone — we can all agree this situation is markedly different. 

Mississippi is nearing its breaking point, and we need to act now.  

Gov. Reeves, we know you want to protect our hospital system and keep our state’s children in the classroom. We do, too. That’s why we’re asking you to reconsider your position on masks in schools and issue an executive order mandating universal masking in Mississippi’s K-12 buildings.

It’s never too late to do the right thing.