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State Supt. of Education hopeful for return to in-person learning, continued mitigation efforts

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Posted at 6:43 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 20:58:01-05

Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley says he's grateful for the Centers for Disease Control recently lowering the recommended time for quarantine for those exposed to COVID-19.

Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) announced it would adopt the updated guidance, which allows people who may have been exposed to the virus to shorten their quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days, or as few as 7 days with a negative test.

The Department of Education (LDOE) is working with LDH and other medical professionals to update guidance for schools. Once school guidelines have been updated, the information will be available at louisianabelieves.com.

In an interview with KATC, Brumley explained that out of the more than 800,000 students in the state's education system, currently about 65% are in a face-to-face learning model. That leaves 15% participating in hybrid learning and 20% of students fully virtual. The 14-day quarantine period meant many students were out of school for long periods of time.

"So many kids were being out of school, not because they had the virus, but because they were in close contact, for 14 days. Some students were experiencing this quarantine period two or three times already during the school year," Brumley said.

While the learning model is ultimately chosen by each school system, Brumley said he understands face-to-face learning is generally what's preferred and what the department feels is best.

People have taught and been taught the same way for years, but Brumley said the state's systems have done an "admirable job" after being forced to flip the switch amid the pandemic. He said he feels the situation is much better today than it was in March, when schools statewide were closed to in-person learning because of the coronavirus.

When Governor John Bel Edwards announced late last month that the state would be moving back to a 'modified' phase two, the education system was allowed to remain in phase three. Brumley says he thinks the decision appropriate because it allows more students to learn in-person and it gives parents the opportunity to go to work and take care of their families.

Supt. Brumley added that schools and school systems are doing a good job with mitigation efforts to keep COVID-19 out of the classroom. Out of the over than 800,000 students in the system, there have been around 4,500 positive cases of COVID-19 over the course of the school year.

"We've learned through our medical experts that schools are not super spreader locations with the virus," Brumley explained. "Our schools are doing a good job with their mitigation efforts," which include face coverings, hand washing, social distancing, and group sizes.

Information on COVID-19 cases in schools is sent from the systems to the Department of Health, meaning the Department of Education doesn't play a role in the collection of that data. General information on how many positive cases in students and staff have been reported in each parish is released by LDH each week and can be found on their website here.

Moving forward, Brumley said he hopes more and more Louisiana students are able to get back to learning in-person soon.

"As long as mitigation efforts can stay in place, we hope more can return to school that way," he said. "[We] have to continue being vigilant with this virus until we're post-pandemic."

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