Although there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in Lamar and surrounding counties, schools will remain closed for an additional week of spring break, according to school officials.

Lamar County school officials, including those from Paris ISD, North Lamar ISD, Chisum ISD, Prairiland ISD, Paris Junior College and Trinity Christian Academy met at noon Friday and issued a joint release announcing the closure.

Shortly afterward, Clarksville, Detroit, Rivercrest, Honey Grove and Cooper also announced schools will be closed at least until March 23.

“Because we view the health and safety of our students and staff as our top priority, we believe that it is in the best interest to postpone the return from spring break at this time,” the joint announcement stated. “The districts will continue to work alongside local health officials and monitor guidance issued by federal and state health authorities in determining when students and staff may safely return to school.”

Later in the day, an announcement came from the University Scholastic League that cancelled all sporting events and other UIL-sponsored contests through March 29.

“Rehearsals and practices may be held at the discretion of the local school district,” the advisory stated.

Prairiland ISD Superintendent Jeff Ballard said everyone’s first thought is “over reaction,” but with so many kids traveling during spring break, there is always a possibility that they could be infected and not know it.

“By being home another week hopefully that will slow down the spread of disease,” Ballard said. “Parents can help by keeping kids at home and limiting large group gatherings.”

Clarksville ISD Superintendent Kermit Ward said his biggest concern about the extended closure is about students who will miss meals at school.

Before midnight Friday, Ward sent an email announcing the district would make breakfast and lunch available free to all students at the middle school/high school. Breakfast will be served from 8 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 am. until 1 p.m.

“We are in uncharted waters,” Ward said. “I have been in the school business for 27 years, and I have never seen anything like this.”

Some schools in the state, Ward said, have suspended classes for two weeks.

“That’s an awfully aggressive move,” the superintendent said. “I think we will take it a step at a time.

A step at a time is what Lamar County school officials said they will do.

The group of officials plans to meet again mid-week to assess the situation again.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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