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SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — More than 1,000 Desoto County students are quarantined after hundreds of positive cases at schools, more than 3 percent of the county’s student body.

While that seems like a small number, parents and educators say time spent in quarantine could have long-term impact on learning.

At Southaven Middle School, 232 students are in quarantine as a result of a close contact. To put that in perspective that’s nearly 16 percent of the student body.

Families fear it will only get worse.

“I think it’s too soon. One thing about it is, they need to be safe,” grandparent Carolyn Cullens said.

Safety is why some Desoto County families would like to see a virtual option as cases rise in the district.

One parent started a petition requesting that option that has more than 100 signatures.

Last week district leaders reported 400 students tested positive, which is a little more than 1 percent of all students in the county. More than 1200 others were in quarantine as a result of possible exposure.

Educators say without any changes, those numbers will rise.

“We know that in-person learning is ideal and that’s what we would love to have, but without mask mandates in place, our concern is that those cases are going to continue to go up,” said Erica Jones, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators.

Jones says if that happens, students learning will still be interrupted.

“This will also affect our educators in the county, as teachers are not able to cover the materials that they will need to do to get our students ready for the next grade level if quarantining continues to occur so many times in the school year,” she said.

Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves said while quarantining does “wreak havoc” on the classroom, children are better off in school.

“I still believe very strongly that having our kids in the classroom is vitally important, and in the long term, the risk associated with not being in the classroom is greater than the risk associated with being in the classroom,” Reeves said.

Reeves has also stated many times he does not support a statewide mask mandate or any exception for schools.