Students in third grade and up will have to wear masks on school campuses in Vermilion Parish. That rule was decided last night along with the protocol to follow if a student refuses; however, many details on reopening are still up in the air.
Board members ultimately decided to recess the meeting until Monday because they want to review the results of surveys sent to parents, guardians and employees on how they feel schools should reopen and when. Currently, a survey sent back by more than 1,000 employees show a trend of wanting to push back the start of school then use a hybrid model between online classes and appearing on campus.
School board member Jason Roy, who recently lost his mother to COVID-19, says, "Take it from someone who's living it...if we could save one teacher, one janitor, one kid...pushing the school year back three weeks is well worth it."
School board members exchanged heated words throughout the meeting as they stumbled to come to decisions on whether to push back the school year start date and under which plan. They also debated the efficacy of masks and breathability. While some members suggest selling masks to students with school logos, others say that would be distasteful and there are other decisions to be made ahead of mask availability.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Ellen Arceneaux mentioned that one of the challenges of reopening is getting the resources they need. Right now a number of disposable masks have been obtained for each school, cloth masks are still an issue.
She says one week ago she checked on mask and Chromebook orders for students, but orders are backlogged right now. She said the masks would not come in for another 6 weeks, while an order of 800 Chromebooks would not be delivered until September. Arceneaux also mentioned that some Chromebooks purchased for Lafayette Parish would not come in until November. The backlog, she says, can be contributed to the pandemic while nationwide, school districts are racing to collect resources.
Something that was made clear in the meeting is that in case of a needed quarantine, staff must reach out to the Louisiana Department of Health for guidance. The department is setting up a hotline for schools to call to find out who should quarantine when someone tests positive and for how long.
The school board has until July 28th to submit their reopening plan to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
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