Tomorrow, the governor's new order requiring masking for everyone age 5 and older takes effect. With school starting in the coming weeks, we wanted to see what Acadiana's districts are planning.
We've reached out to all our superintendents to ask what changes, if any, they are discussing. Here's what we've heard so far, by parish:
Diocese of Lafayette
The Bishop has notified schools that the Diocese of Lafayette will comply with the Governor's mask mandate.
Superintendent Scott Richard tell us "The Acadia Parish School System will follow the new statewide mask mandate as provided by the Governor's Office. We appreciate everyone's cooperation, flexibility and patience. We look forward to seeing our students on Wednesday, August 18th."
Spokesperson Holly Holland tells us the district posted their Return-to-School plan today, and it reflects changes required by the Governor's order. Here's the link.
Superintendent Darwan Lazard tells us "Our initial plans were developed in conjunction with Dr. Tina Stefanski and officials of the LA Department of Health (LDH), as well as, a local physician, Dr. Charles "Chuck" Aswell, III, who leads a Medical Advisory Committee that I established in summer 2020. Our plan contains contingencies for potential COVID-19 protocol changes from state and/or Federal officials, so we are able to pivot to be in compliance. The health and safety of all school personnel and pupils remain our top priority."
Superintendent Carey Laviolette tells us that the district "will follow the face covering requirements of the Governor's Proclamation for grades K-12."
JEFFERSON DAVIS PARISH
Superintendent Kirk Credeur tells us that his staff is discussing the issue now. We'll update as soon as we have more information.
LPSS Spokesperson Allison Dickerson sent us this statement: "The Lafayette Parish School System wants to assure parents that the safety of our students and staff is our number one priority as we start the new school year. Our students and staff will comply with the statewide mask mandate set forth by the Governor. We will also continue to be responsible by practicing social distancing, using successful mitigation measures, and ensuring that our school sites are safe and secure. We have seen first hand that following proper protocols set forth by medical experts does reduce the spread of this virus in our school communities. We anticipate releasing more details of our reopening plan this week."
ST. LANDRY PARISH
At a press conference on Monday, Superintendent Patrick Jenkins said that school will be opening as normal on August 18. He is recommending that the board adopt a mask mandate for the school system. The board will hear that recommendation and vote on August 5, 2021. They hope to stay in line with recommendations from the CDC. St. Landry is one of the first parishes to request testing for school students, staff and other employees. This would be voluntary testing for those who wish to be tested, Jenkins said. Jenkins says that right now, students will go back to school in person but as time passes, they may change to different phases of learning if cases increase or if the state changes phases.
ST. MARTIN PARISH
Superintendent Allen Blanchard tells us that the district will follow the Governor's order.
ST. MARY PARISH
Superintendent Teresa Bagwell tells us: "St. Mary adopted protocols during its July board meeting that will now be adjusted to include required mask wearing. All other previously adopted protocols will remain in place."
Superintendent Tommy Byler shared updates on the district's Facebook page Tuesday evening. He says that school will begin on August 11, and the district will follow the Governor's guidelines regarding masks. The mandate will be in effect until the current deadline of Sept. 1. The major change from last school year is that the mandate now includes kindergarten through 2nd grade students. It also applies to anyone on a school bus, including band, athletic, or any other extracurricular trips. The mandate does not apply to Pre-K students or medical mask exemptions, which will have to be approved by the school and the school district.
VPSB cafeterias will be socially distant, and kids can take their masks off when outdoors, like when moving from class to class. Outdoor activities like P.E. will resume, socially distanced, and water fountains will be available. Byler says fountains will be cleaned 2-3 times a day.
Another issue addressed by Byler was that of quarantine - all positive cases must quarantine for 10 days until symptoms are no longer present. Changes this year include for individuals who are wearing masks and who are vaccinated.
Byler says more information regarding the district's virtual learning plan will be announced on Wednesday, August 4, but did say VPSB is going to offer a virtual option for 1st-5th grade students.
Watch Byler's video update below:
Also today, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released new data that they say shows in-person students significantly outperformed remote learners on the Spring 2021 LEAP Assessments.
The department states that this means in-person instruction is more beneficial than virtual learning for most students. We have asked state education officials if that claim is based on the assumption that Louisiana teachers were adequately trained and prepared for virtual learning, and if that means they believe that the training and support provided for virtual learning was comparable to that for in-person learning. We haven't heard back yet.
According to the DOE, for grades 3-8, the rate of students who scored Mastery or above on ELA and Math assessments was 15% higher for students who were in-person for the entirety of the year versus those who were virtual for the entire year. Also, students who were virtual for the entire year had an 11% greater rate of Unsatisfactory scores than students who were in-person for the entire year.