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Dear SA Community,
As we have seen over the last few days, events and information surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue to remain very fluid. We have just received updated guidance from the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Office for all schools to close for the upcoming week and to also cancel all athletic and extracurricular activities for the week (see attachment). We have decided to follow their recommendation, and so Starkville Academy will remain closed for the entire week of March 16-20. There will be no school-related activities of any kind until further notice. We will continue to provide information on future plans as best we can, but like everyone else, we will have to take this on a week-by-week basis at this point.
Thank you as always for your support and patience as we all determine how to navigate this situation. We earnestly pray for God's guidance, wisdom, and protection for everyone!
Dear SA Parents,
I hope you and your family have had a great spring break week. Obviously, the events of the last several days concerning the coronavirus pandemic have been unlike anything we’ve probably ever experienced. Events and information have been changing rapidly, which led us to delay a statement originally set to go out earlier today in the hopes of making the best decision possible for our entire school community.
After consultation with numerous groups and agencies, Starkville Academy has decided to extend spring break through Monday and Tuesday of next week (March 16-17). We will have a faculty meeting on Monday at 10:00 AM in order to discuss safety and sanitary procedures with our faculty and staff and to game plan for potential future scenarios should we be forced to remain closed beyond Tuesday.
Upon the recommendation of the MAIS Office, and in conjunction with the MHSAA, we will continue to participate in athletic events and practices at this time. However, all field trips, assemblies, and school programs scheduled during the month of March will likely be canceled or postponed. We will send more information regarding those specific programs next week.
This remains a very fluid situation that could entail changes to our existing plan, but know that any plan for the future will be guided by these priorities: the health and safety of our school community, the continuity of learning under all possible circumstances, and the importance of maintaining the normal routine of school life to the highest degree possible.
Following guidance from the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH), any student or faculty and staff member who has traveled to any country listed by the CDC as a Level 3 Travel Warning nation (see full list below) or who has been on an international cruise during the spring break holidays will be required to remain at home under self-quarantine for a duration of 14 days from the date of their return.
Additionally, as a precautionary measure, Starkville Academy will not allow any visitors on campus unless invited by the school until further notice. For example, this includes parents or grandparents coming to eat lunch with a student or coming to bring food to a child’s birthday party.
We understand that the existing circumstances can bring about varying levels of apprehension based upon certain health conditions currently experienced by some of our families. If you feel because of your family situation that it is not in your child’s or your family’s best interest to send your child to school, please inform your child’s principal by email of the circumstances, and these absences will be excused for all ages and will not count against exam exemptions for students taking semester exams. Additionally, if you feel your child has been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus and you feel they should self-quarantine, please do so, and these absences will be excused. Most importantly, we ask that anyone who is exhibiting any signs of sickness or illness (especially those symptoms that could be associated with the virus) to not
report to school. In any case, we will work with your child to help them stay current in their studies.
We encourage our students, staff, and families to be mindful of key preventative measures that are always recommended to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:
· Avoid close contact with sick people,
· While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible,
· Stay home if you are sick,
· Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze,
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands,
· Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs,
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
Please remember that if children are sick, they should not be at school. Students need to be fever free for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medications) before returning to class after any illness. Keeping children home when they are sick is critical to prevention.
Our goal is to mitigate the risks posed by the coronavirus while maintaining the quality and integrity of our instructional programs. Thank you for your support and assistance in this endeavor!
Respectfully, Jeremy Nicholas
Level 3 Travel Warning Countries (found at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices):
· China, Iran, South Korea
· European nations: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City.
After being informed of the altered-photograph hoax that occurred this past Sunday, Starkville Academy contacted legal authorities to alert them of the incident and to offer to assist in any way in their investigation. Additionally, SA conducted its own thorough inquiry. During this process, an SA junior high student contacted school officials to accept responsibility for altering the photograph to include the offensive language and sharing it in a text message group, which led to its subsequent unintended distribution. SA was able to confirm, both through that contact and countless other reports, that the words reflected on the photograph were not created by or with the knowledge of the student depicted in the picture, as was being inaccurately claimed.
As is often the case with matters involving social media, the explanation of what truly happened has continued to lag behind the circulation of the photograph. The young girl shown in the picture is one of many victims in this event and, despite that, she and her family have received and continue to receive threats of violence and other harm. SA has communicated with this student and her family and has offered its continued support in helping her return to school, whether at SA or at any other school she may determine to attend, and to offer assistance in helping her to regain some sense of normalcy in her life. She is in no way deserving of the harm she has suffered.
The teenager who altered and shared the photograph is no longer a student at SA. Although many will desire additional details of SA’s actions in that regard, SA is not allowed to comment further due to student privacy requirements, safety concerns, and the existence of ongoing proceedings.
On Monday morning, Starkville Academy’s Head of School met in assembly with the school’s junior high and high school students to discuss this incident and to offer the school’s full resources to any student who had been affected by the comments. In closing this assembly, the Head of School reiterated to SA’s students the following: the comments contained in the photograph are not reflective of the culture at SA and will not be tolerated. If any of the comments contained in that altered picture are reflective of a student’s views, that student is not welcome at our school and will be allowed to withdraw immediately. The school will reiterate these points, along with concerns regarding the need for caution when using or reading social media, with students in future conversations.
For the avoidance of doubt, Starkville Academy again states here: SA affirmatively desires that students of all races attend its school and feel welcome on its campus. Although student discipline matters will and must be handled internally, racially offensive comments or attitudes will not be tolerated.