Schools to remain closed through end of the school year

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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday he will grant the state school board’s request to close school buildings for the rest of the school year.

Last week, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education asked him to extend his current order, which expires April 30, through the end of the spring term in May. Edwards said he expected to grant their request, though Monday was the first time he had said he was certain he would do so. “The school year will continue,” just not on campuses, Edwards said.

Edwards said more details would be forthcoming from the Department of Education and school districts about what form that education will take.

According to a state survey, almost half of Louisiana school districts were not providing distance learning for students, who will lose more than two months of class time. Though it is unknown when it will be considered safe to reopen schools, summer classes and an early start to the fall semester have been discussed.

As of Monday morning, the Louisiana Workforce Commission announced it had made “one-day” payments totaling almost $90 million to Louisiana residents who had their work hours reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost $21.4 million came from state coffers, the LWC said.

LWC says it has distributed $146 million since March 23.

“When I informed Governor Edwards the commission received $86 million in CARES Act money just last week, without hesitation, he directed me to get the funds to Louisianans starting today,” LWC Secretary Ava Dejoie said Monday. “As with everything related to COVID-19, this was a first-of-its-kind task, involving a staggering number of people. But we recognize the urgency of getting people the assistance they need.”

In its daily pandemic update Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 884 state residents had died so far from COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

LDH reported 2,134 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized on Monday and 461 of them were on ventilators. More than 21,000 cases of the disease have been reported so far.

Edwards said many Louisiana residents violated the state’s “stay at home” order over the Easter weekend. Louisiana has seen evidence in recent days that the rate of new infections is starting to slow, but it easily could spike again if people don’t continue to mitigate the spread by avoiding groups, staying home as much as possible, and maintaining space between themselves and others if they must go out.