Louisiana school systems can stay in Phase 3 of the official guidelines meant to control the spread of COVID-19, even though the rest of the state has moved to a modified version of Phase 2, the state school board president says. Union Parish Schools have been operating under a hybrid education model since schools opened for the 2020-2021 school year.
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Sandy Holloway says she has approved emergency rules that allow, but do not require, school leaders to continue to follow Phase 3 reopening and operational guidelines.
BESE in July approved minimum health and safety standards for opening K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The standards vary depending on which of the three phases the state is in at a given time; the lower the phase, the more stringent the precautions.
For example, maximum group sizes range from 10 to 25 to 50, while bus capacity runs from 25 percent to 50 percent to 75 percent. While inside a school, adults and students in grades 3 through 12 must wear a face covering “to the greatest extent possible.”
“BESE put out a memo stating schools could remain open as Phase 3,” said Superintendent of Union Parish Schools, Kristy Fine. “We are going to continue our hybrid model, so nothing will change for us.”
Current guidelines call for a 14-day quarantine for someone who has been in close proximity to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Several superintendents have called for modifying that rule, saying it keeps too many students away from school and extracurricular activities for too long, possibly stunting educational and social development. Student involvement, especially those who have chosen virtual learning, remains a concern for school officials and parents. “Our schools sent out a questionnaire to parents of our students to determine the interest of moving forward to a 4-day week,” said Fine. This would be an increase in number of days of in person learning for hybrid model students. “We made it clear that the parents would be responsible for providing transportation on the additional two days until bus regulations change,” Fine said. “Many parents are interested in making the transition, but we have decided to maintain the hybrid model for now with the increase in positive cases around the parish and state.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards last week moved Louisiana from Phase 3 of the White House-approved guidelines to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 back to Phase 2, while noting that local school officials still will have the final say on whether and how to hold in-person classes.