Since Gov. John Bel Edwards has announced that the state's COVID status will be upgraded to Phase 3 tomorrow, we reached out to Acadiana school systems to see what that means - if anything - for our schools.
So far, most districts are saying they don't have immediate changes to make, and that the change between Phase 2 and Phase 3 will not be a big one.
A spokesman for the state Department of Education said Superintendent Cade Brumley is meeting with school system administrators and leaders via webinar this afternoon to discuss what the state's advice is and answering questions. It's nothing new; the event was just an opportunity for local-level officials to ask about the state's guidance, the spokesman said.
The differences between Phase 2 and Phase 3 in terms of DOE guidance can be found in this document. Most of the differences deal with how many people can be in a room, or on a bus, at one time.
For instance, in Phase 3 districts can increase the number of people on a school bus from 50 percent capacity (Phase 2) to 75 percent capacity. And, in Phase 3 districts can increase the "maximum group size that may convene indoors in a single room, irrespective of room size, or outdoors at any given time" from 25 people (Phase 2) to 50 people.
Here's a statement from DOE about it:
"School reopening plans included shifts based on phases. Schools and systems will now begin transitioning to Phase 3 operations. What Phase 3 looks like and how quickly schools and systems transition will vary by district and be based on local decisions that work best for that community. Our school reopening guidance that was released over the summer included phased guidance, as do the minimum health and safety standards approved by BESE. Phase 2 and 3 differ mainly for group size, transportation and band, vocal and music limitations. Group size changes can be found on page 5, transportation on page 6 and band, vocal and music can be found on page 9 of this document. Also, if a parish/municipality decides to stay in Phase 2, systems and schools would follow that order. Here is the language from that in Bulletin 741," DOE says.
Most of the superintendents we've spoken with are taking a cautious approach; they want to see exactly what the Governor's order says, and they want to talk to state officials about the shift.
Here's what we've heard from Acadiana systems:
"We have already alerted principals and board to remain as we are right now. As we're moving to phase three, we will continue Phase two schedules for students, which means pre K to five will attend daily grades; six to 12 will maintain the A/B schedule. We're going to evaluate the governor's executive order and get guidance from the DOE as we move forward but for an indefinite amount of time we're going to continue to stick with the schedule, especially since we just started this one," says Superintendent Scott Richard.
To see the school system's back-to-school plan, click here.
"We're going to stay where we are now; we're going to review the guidelines. I think first of all, before we can decide anything we need to see what the order says and what we will be allowed to do in phase three. But as we are allowed to do more, we certainly will do more," says Superintendent Darwan Lazard.
You can read the district's back-to-school plan here.
Superintendent Carey Laviolette tells us that her system is waiting to see what the governor's order says, and to see if that order is in line with the existing DOE guidance. There's an administrative meeting set for September 15 to discuss the issue with principals, and she's hoping to have more information by then.
You can see the district's back to school plan here.
JEFF DAVIS PARISH
We've left a message with the superintendent. The superintendent said in a statement on Facebook Thursday afternoon that while the school board had planned to return to full face-to-face daily instruction in Phase III of the COVID-19 pandemic, they did not plan to enter Phase III during a state of emergency "and on the heels of a massive hurricane destruction with numerous out-of-district students wanting or having to relocate to our district." Credeur said students will continue for an interim period with daily face-to-face instruction for Pre-K through 5th grade and the A/B schedules for grades 6-12 at this time, and when the board can have an accurate accounting of student numbers, it will look at returning to a normal schedule as soon as possible.
"Even though the governor has upgraded the state to Phase III, we are still under strict guidelines to maintain all safety cleaning and mask protocols established under Phase II. These protocols will be even more important as the social distance areas reduce themselves due to increased room capacities." Read Superintendent Credeur's full statement here.
Here's the system's back to school plan.
Lafayette Parish School System will remain in Phase 2 at least until October 2, at which time the board will reassess and provide a further update.
Here's a statement from LPSS:
The Lafayette Parish School System will remain in Phase 2 of our 2020-2021 Learn Lafayette Reopening Plan. Superintendent Trosclair, in collaboration with board members and district staff, made this decision with the best interest of our students, staff, and community in mind.
“Schools made great strides this week in establishing safety protocols and adhering to recommended guidelines. As we work to transition to Phase 3, our next objective is to take a measured approach in our mission to provide healthy learning environments to our students and staff,” Trosclair said.
As we receive updates from state leaders, we want to carefully and mindfully review all new information before we adjust any aspects of our plan. To better prepare our students and staff, it’s important that transitions to Phase 3 are strategic and mindful.
Minor changes to transportation will be made available early next week.
LPSS will reassess over the course of the next three weeks and will provide an update on October 2. As always, LPSS will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions that we believe to be in the best interest of the entire Lafayette Parish School System community.
Please note all mitigation efforts will remain in effect at our schools and on buses, which include wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, heightened hand hygiene, increased cleaning and disinfection, and an emphasis on keeping children home when they are sick.
This decision does not impact students who are enrolled in Lafayette Online Academy
Here's the LPSS back to school plan.
ST. LANDRY PARISH
This system started school 100 percent virtual.
The St. Landry Parish School Board will have a Special Board Meeting on Friday, September 11, 2020, at 3:30 p.m. The only item on the agenda is "Discussion and any necessary action regarding the instructional delivery format (Virtual Learning, Hybrid and/or In-Person) of the school system's reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year."
ST. MARTIN PARISH
Here's what Superintendent Al Blanchard tells us:
"Phase 3 doesn't really change a lot of things, the Phase 3 regulations applying us. It's mostly to transportation, where you know you go from 50% capacity on a bus, up to 75% capacity," he says. "And we didn't have any buses that were overloaded right now. So, whether it be a 50% or 75% it really doesn't change much for us. A lot of our parents are bringing the kids to school. And we have quite a number of students on virtual. So our buses were not over the 50% capacity so it really doesn't bother us too much."
He also mentioned the maximum group number.
"The other area where it may affect us is you can now have instead of 25 people in a space, you now have 50. So like in a gymnasium," he said. "You know, we may be able to put more people in a large open space like the cafeteria,in the gymnasium, but you still have to spread them out six feet or six feet to the extent possible is what they tell us. So, you know, we had partitions up in those spaces, anyway. So really again in effects is someone that does tremendously."
Blanchard also mentioned the webinar with Brumley.
"We're on a call right now with the state superintendent and they they recommended to us, that we continue to do static groups at the lower grades throughout the rest of the school year," Blanchard said. "So we're going to continue to do that you can have more kids in a room, if you stager groups which we do at the lower grades and the upper grades. You have a hard and fast rule of six foot distance. So basically not much is going to change in the classroom, we're going to stick to our schedule. And we're going to stick to the routines and procedures we have in place for now. So, for me, St. Martin Parish going from Phase 2 to Phase 3 doesn't change a whole lot in terms of how we're going to operate."
Here's the parish's back to school plan.
ST. MARY PARISH
St. Mary Parish School System officials say they are making no changes tomorrow. They are looking at timelines now and making plans.
Superintendent Teresa Bagwell said at Thursday's school board meeting that as more details are released on Phase III guidance, "St. Mary will return to typical school year with a return of all students to on campus learning."
To read the parish's back to school plan, click here.
Vermilion Parish superintendent Tommy Byler tells us that officials are waiting to assess what happens over the next few weeks in terms of the state's reopening before moving into Phase 3.
To see this parish's back to school plan, click here.
DIOCESE OF LAFAYETTE
We've put in a call to the Diocese.
Calcasieu Parish schools have been closed since Hurricane Laura. The system is working to set up virtual school for students. Read more about that here.