Four school districts are closed Monday as a result of the deadly tornadoes that made their way across the state over the weekend and killed 21 people, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The districts are:
- South Delta School District
- Amory School District
- Carroll County School District
- Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District
Brian Jones, superintendent of the Amory School District, described the situation as “very, very overwhelming.” He said schools will be closed all week in the district and the goal is to have students back by next Monday. Amory High School was the only school building to sustain damage in one part of the campus, allowing it to be used for instruction once schools reopen.
Jones said the district’s school buses had all the windows blown out by the storm, which they are working to repair, adding that they have been in communication with other districts about borrowing school buses. He also said the athletic facilities are gone and students will not be playing any sports for the remainder of the year while the district works to rebuild.
“The community has rallied around itself with everybody trying to help everybody,” Jones said.
No buildings were damaged in the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District, according to Superintendent Teresa Jackson, but the district and much of the surrounding community are currently without power.
Jackson said the estimate from Entergy was that power would be restored by 10 p.m. Tuesday night, but said she considers this optimistic. She added she is concerned about food access since the one grocery store in Winona is running on generators and most other stores are without power.
“We want to get our schools open as soon as possible so that we can serve breakfast and lunch, have mental health resources, and just get back into a routine,” Jackson said. “Kids need routine.”
Jackson said they hope to be back in school before the end of the week. She also expressed her appreciation for the fellow superintendents, state leaders, and local companies who have checked on them and offered assistance.
“When there are tragic events like this, the state of Mississippi really wraps their arms around those people,” she said. “That is why I love Mississippi so much, because we take care of each other, we care about each other, and we’re going to reach out and say ‘How can we help?’”
A spokesperson for the Mississippi Department of Education said it has been in continued contact with all affected districts, and is working with federal, state and local agencies to administer support services. State Superintendent Robert Taylor visited the communities most severely affected on Monday.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said the New Albany School District and Humphreys County School District, also in the path of the tornadoes, were operational on Monday, which the New Albany Superintendent Lance Evans confirmed to Mississippi Today. Evans added that the damage to facilities in his district was extremely minimal compared to other districts.
Superintendents of the South Delta School District and the Carroll County School District could not be reached for comment. According to the Mississippi Department of Education, school buildings in South Delta sustained roof damage but are not destroyed and Carroll County school buildings were undamaged but are currently without power.
Hank Bounds, the former state superintendent of education during Hurricane Katrina, said for the most severely affected districts, reopening schools is secondary to ensuring their students and staff are safe and cared for. Bounds said he has offered his assistance through state leaders to districts trying to figure out their disaster recovery plans, but has not been in contact with any yet.
“My guess is they are doing nothing but thinking about the welfare of their people right now, as they should be,” he said.
No colleges or universities in the state appear to have sustained damages.
On Saturday evening, Mississippi Valley State University in Leflore County posted a message from its president, Jerryl Briggs, on social media. The campus “avoided a severe blow,” Briggs wrote, but the families of students, faculty and staff were affected. To support those community members, the university was organizing a community service event.
“Our hearts ached as we watched the news coverage and have since heard of the reports of those who lost their lives, property, and so much more,” Briggs wrote.
Molly Minta contributed to this report.