The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

Orientation Week derailed by COVID-19 outbreak

Stella Savell
Evolutionary biologist and MSMS alum Jeanine Abrams McLean speaks on Aug. 25 at the Ceremony of Lights, which was postponed by 11 days due to a COVID-19 outbreak on campus.

A surprise was waiting for MSMS students and staff as they began Orientation Week on Aug. 7: As seniors returned to their lives here and juniors were introduced to what the next nine months of their lives would look like, another entity returned to campus as well — COVID-19. 

During the week of Aug. 7-14, many positive test results confirmed an outbreak was occurring on campus. According to administration, there were about 35 confirmed cases between Goen and Frazer as of Aug. 21. Many school-wide orientation activities, including the Ceremony of Lights and Special Topics Exposition, were rescheduled due to the outbreak.

Although MSMS has dealt with COVID procedures during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s regulations have changed numerous times in the past three years. Executive Director Donald Cook said he reached out to MSMS’s sister schools to see how they handled similar outbreaks.

“I often go to my counterparts at the [Mississippi] School for the Arts and the [Mississippi] School for the Deaf and Blind because they are in a similar setup as far as the governing body and being residential,” Cook said. “They clarified what the protocols are for me to […] let me make parents aware and make students aware so they [could] begin to take precautions.”

What began as five confirmed positive cases on Aug. 9 quickly grew to 30 by Aug. 14, and as students looked to administration for guidance, the response they received was isolation would only be mandatory for those confirmed sick. 

“Anyone who tests positive will be isolated for five days and may come back after symptoms are resolved,” Cook said in an email to parents and students regarding the initial outbreak. “However, quarantine is no longer called for when there has been exposure.”

Although there were some disagreements on responsive procedures between students and administration, MSMS worked together to stay healthy. For example, many students took additional precautions, including wearing masks and self-quarantining.

Senior Emissary Ashton Lollis sent an email to current students inspiring them to uphold the MSMS ideal of community. 

“I know it may seem like a stressful time right now for all of us, but we must remember the one thing [which]makes MSMS unique: the community,” Lollis said. “[Take] preventative measures… [and] let anyone know how you’re feeling, whether it is physically, mentally or emotionally.”

Administrators last week said daily reports of positive COVID-19 cases have dropped to one or two, compared to the five or six per day as seen during the peak of the outbreak. 

A schedule in flux

The Ceremony of Lights — a long-standing tradition at MSMS which welcomes new juniors and is seen as the start of the school year — was rescheduled from Aug. 14 to Aug. 25,  almost two weeks after the original date, due to the outbreak. Other orientation meetings about work service and residential living were pushed back, too. 

The Special Topics Exposition, originally meant to be a school-wide presentation to showcase what students had learned in their Special Topics mini-semesters, became an optional event many people missed due to being sick. However, according to Nisa King, the academic administrative assistant, the exposition was still a success, as were the Ceremony of Lights and Parents Day. 

“[This is] just the MSMS way,” King said. “We pivot; we adapt; and we made some concessions for safety and tried to keep it as normal as possible. We communicate effectively with teams in place and just deal with it.”

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About the Contributor
Stella Savell, Student Life Editor
Stella Savell is a member of the Class of 2024 and is originally from Corinth. She participates in GSA, Film Club and Baking Club. Journalism has always interested Stella, so having the opportunity to contribute to The Vision is especially exciting. Growing up as the oldest of four kids, Stella has always been opinionated and outspoken. Although she doesn’t know exactly what she wants a career in yet, one thing she does know is that she wants to travel everywhere. Traveling to places ranging from Italy to New Zealand, Switzerland and Greece and a million more around the world, Stella knows she wants to experience every culture and see everything the world has to offer. Until then, you can find her reading, watching old 90’s movies, skateboarding and listening to music.

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