On Thursday, the officers of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) sent a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards in support of making an immediate decision regarding the extension of his order and closing public school facilities statewide for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
In the letter BESE says they would support an extension of Gov. Edwards order and have school facilities closed for the remainder of the Spring term. In the current order, schools would reopen after April 30, 2020.
If the extension is made BESE says they will immediately focus attention on a long-term plan to address loss of instructional time, as well as a long-term plan for distance learning. "With the input from many stakeholders, there is much work to be done—we are ready to focus on solutions for the children of Louisiana and appreciate your leadership during this time," the letter states.
The board says that local districts around the state have pivoted quickly to provide "continuity of education" to all students in response to the pandemic's closure of schools statewide.
Superintendents also requested this measure from the governor. The Louisiana Association of Schools Superintendents sent a letter to the governor asking him to keep schools closed for the remainder of the school year. In that letter, the superintendents said keeping schools closed could reduce or prevent the community spread of COVID-19 and keep students and faculty safe.
Regarding the BESE leadership recommendation, BESE President Sandy Holloway has issued the following statement:
“The safety and health of our students and educators is the top priority for BESE. The impact of COVID-19 in Louisiana has been pronounced, and statistics clearly indicate that our state is particularly vulnerable to further spread of this dangerous virus at a time when we have yet to see the expected peak in the number of cases. BESE leadership, therefore, supports the Governor in making a decision sooner, rather than later, to extend the school facilities closure through the end of the school year. We also implore districts to maintain food services and distance learning for all students, as this facilities closure does not mark the discontinuation of supports for families for the Spring term.
Preserving a continuity of learning for our students during this closure is extremely important. We applaud the efforts of Louisiana educators and school districts to deliver distance education and meal services and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE), under the leadership of Beth Scioneaux, Acting State Superintendent, will continue to provide guidance and support as all stakeholders navigate this unprecedented event. Our Board supports the LDE in focusing its efforts on designing a long-term plan to address the loss of classroom instructional time and identifying the necessary policy revisions that ensure students are not left behind academically. We look forward to conversations with key stakeholders and local education agencies in that process.”