DeSoto County superintendent avoids questions as doctors claim they’re being ignored

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HERNANDO, Miss. – A group of doctors claim DeSoto County Schools has been ignoring them as they try to advise the district on its COVID policies.

The doctors, who have children attending district schools, say they’ve been trying to reach district officials since July with no success.

“A lot of the practices have sent emails to school board members with no responses,” said Dr. Jessica Gartrell, a St. Jude pediatrician and DeSoto County Schools parent.

“I’ve asked for more information about who’s providing medial recommendations, where those are being discussed, who’s making the decisions. I haven’t gotten that information,” said Dr. Matthew Rees, another St. Jude pediatrician with children attending classes in the school district.

The doctors say they’re recommending the district issue a mask mandate. As of Friday, 496 students and 82 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 in DeSoto County Schools.

Most parents at Thursday afternoon’s board meeting urged the district to continue with its current policy of optional masks.

“I implore you to please stay the course that you’re on,” said one parent.

“I want y’all to hold strong. We have your backs,” said another.

But Superintendent Corey Uselton wouldn’t answer questions about the doctors’ concerns that the district isn’t following medical advice.

After waiting for an executive session to end, reporters were told Uselton had already left the building via an unknown exit.

“You can call tomorrow and get a statement. We’re done,” said a district official when WREG pressed him about the doctors’ concerns.

“The silence to me is concerning, and so there’s supposed to be transparency in public education and we’re not seeing that,” said Gartrell.

After WREG emailed a district spokesperson asking for Uselton’s response to Gartrell and Rees’ claims that they had been ignored, we received a brief statement that didn’t address their claims.

“The school board members and I appreciated everyone’s comments today,” the statement read. “Parental input is a vital part of the education process, and our board members took everyone’s comments under advisement. Today’s meeting was very productive.”

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