On Friday, July 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines that would allow vaccinated teachers and students to go mask-free while inside school buildings.
The guidance also recommends that those who are not vaccinated continue to wear face coverings, especially indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
We wanted to know what you can expect from the school systems across Acadiana.
In Lafayette Parish, a spokesperson says the system is still working on school reopening guidelines.
In St. Martin and Iberia Parish, they will follow the guidelines that unvaccinated people should wear masks.
In Iberia Parish specifically, buses will be at 100 percent capacity. So, all students and drivers will be required to wear masks on buses. The President of the Bus Operators’ Association in that parish says that’s not only smart, but also safe.
“That would be something that they should continue to let it remain in effect because we’re not 100% free of this,” said Karen Simon.
She believes classrooms and other enclosed spaces, similar to buses, should enforce mask wearing.
“When it comes to teachers and students intermingling within another enclosed environment as if they are on the bus, with the variant playing a major part in this,” said Simon. “In my opinion, no they should not take them off when they exit the bus.”
She tells KATC when schools opened up last year after the shutdown, some buses that were meant to transport 70 students, sometimes had seven or eight.
Although it is unclear if this was because some were learning from home or parents chose to drive them to campus, so they didn’t have to wear a mask, she says this led to some financial and logistical problems for the school system.
Vaccination documentation in Iberia Parish will only be needed for students or employees that may be at risk of getting COVID and want to avoid quarantining.
In St. Martin Parish, Superintendent Al Blanchard says they will not force students or teachers to wear a mask. In Acadia Parish, Superintendent Scott Richard says they are planning to not mandate/require face coverings when they start school in August or require proof of vaccination.
Below is the responses we've gathered so far from Acadiana school districts on on whether they will be following the new recommended guidance, and whether schools will be requiring students and faculty to show proof of vaccination for the upcoming school year.
Acadia Parish is planning to not mandate/require face coverings when we start school in August. When riding in school buses, masks must be worn. They are not requiring proof of vaccinations. They say they will continue to monitor and review the ever-changing guidelines and requirements relative to COVID-19.
In the Evangeline Parish School District, masks/face coverings will be worn on a voluntary or as needed basis by students and school employees, unless advised differently by the LA Department of Health, the LA Department of Education or other medical professionals. Exception: By Government Executive Order, all bus riders, statewide & nationally, must wear a mask/face covering while on buses.
No proof of vaccination will be required from anyone by school officials in the Evangeline Parish School District.
The school district said they are not providing comments on mask mandates at this time. As of now, the school district is not requiring blanket proof of vaccination.
Iberia Parish is going to follow the guideline that states that unvaccinated students and employees should wear masks. Iberia Parish buses will be at 100% capacity. Therefore, all students and drivers will be required to wear masks on buses. The School System will only require vaccination documentation for students or employees who are in direct contact with a COVID-19 positive individual and want to avoid quarantining.
Jeff Davis Parish
The mask mandates have not changed. Superintendent Kirk Credeur says that the school system is strongly recommending that anyone who has not been vaccinated to wear a mask.
A proof of vaccination will not be required by the school system.
LPSS is still in the process of preparing their guidelines for the reopening of schools. The school systems says that those guidelines will be shared publicly when they are completed.
Lafayette Online Academy will still be offered for students who choose virtual learning for the upcoming school year. The application process and details are located on the LOA website.
St. Landry Parish
KATC has reached out to St. Landry Parish on masking but we have not heard back.
St. Martin Parish:
St. Martin Parish will follow the guidelines that unvaccinated people should wear masks. Superintendent Allen Blanchard says that the school system will not force students or teachers to wear a mask.
A virtual program for grades 3 and up will be in place. Blanchard says that students in the virtual program will be required to return to in-person instruction if they are not keeping up or are failing. Virtual learning will only be allowed under special circumstances for students in Pre-k through 2nd grade.
St. Mary Parish:
The school board approved extending the same masking guidelines previously installed for the summer program wherein masks are recommended, but not mandated, said Superintendent Teresa Bagwell. However, in accordance with a presidential executive order, masks remain required on school buses. The school system will not require proof of vaccination from teachers, students, or staff.
Virtual learning options will be restricted to those students who meet the district's traditional guidelines for enrollment in St. Mary's Virtual Learning Program.
Superintendent Tommy Byler says the district has not made any decisions about any of our re-opening plans for next year at the present time.
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