Cory Uselton

DeSoto County Schools Supt. Cory Uselton answers questions following a special called Board of Education meeting Sunday, March 15, in Hernando. Board members approved paid administrative leave for employees who would not be at work this week due to classes being closed by COVID-19 concerns.  

As the DeSoto County School District (DCS) continues to deal with its response to the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic, Mississippi's largest school district Sunday took action to ensure its employees are not forgotten.

At a special called Board of Education meeting held Sunday afternoon, March 15, board members approved a plan that would give school employees extra administrative leave time to cover this coming week when classes would not be in session, at least through Friday, March 20.

Basically, the motion will give those employees a paycheck for the week without being required to come to work.

"We wanted to make sure that our teachers, teacher assistants, bus drivers, child nutrition, all of those employees would receive pay for this week," Uselton said. "While we are in uncharted territory, we wanted to make sure our employees are taken care from that standpoint. We wanted to do this today to reassure those employees before the week actually began."

While classes will not be in session, those considered "essential employees," front office staff, etc., those who keep the buildings functioning, will remain at work this week.

"We want to be able to keep our Central Services offices open so that we can have a parent contact us if they have a need to contact us here," Uselton said. "At the same time, we want to make sure our schools also are operational if parents need to get in touch with the schools. So, the essential personnel that are there all year will be at the school the entire week as will be at Central Services, also."

What may now come into play, and a question that may be answered during the week ahead, concerns Mississippi's requirement that public schools stay in session for 180 days to complete a calendar school year.

Uselton is hopeful a waiver of that requirement, similar to what occurred after the county suffered severe winter weather a few years ago, will be granted.

"We expect to get more information Monday on that waiver," Uselton said. "We are very hopeful we will receive it. We went ahead and made the decision to close school for the week based on the safety of the students and staff."

The DCS superintendent added more guidance from state officials will come at the Monday teleconference.

"We have a conference call tomorrow (Monday) with the state Superintendent of Education (Dr. Carey Wright) and the Mississippi Department of Health to get more guidance," Uselton said. "We're trying to make our decisions on a week-to-week basis with the information we have at hand. Last week's information changed so much, because it's such a unique situation, that as the information was changing, our decisions were changing. As the day starts tomorrow, we may make decisions that are different as the week goes on."

School facilities will go through a deep cleaning during the week ahead to prevent the virus' spread.

As of Sunday afternoon, DeSoto County's largest private school still had plans to begin remote/online learning next week, starting Wednesday. Students at Northpoint Christian School have been told not to report to class next week through Friday, March 20.