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Educators react to BESE guidelines for reopening of schools

Posted at 7:26 PM, Jul 15, 2020

Backed by medical experts and education groups, Louisiana's top school board has approved minimum safety standards for the reopening of schools. That guidance includes rules on masks, school bus limits, hygiene, and social distancing policies.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) released the guidelines for phases one, two, and three of reopening. The maximum group size for indoor and outdoor activities during phase one is 10 people. For phase two, it's 25, and for phase three the limit is 50.

READ MORE: BESE adopts minimum health, safety standards for school reopening

Some may say these guidelines are too strict, others question whether the policies go far enough.

"Our planet is saying we need to go back to school. Not just our area," said Stephen Strojny, the head girls' basketball coach at St. Thomas More. Strogny also teaches civics, psychology, and sociology, and he believes there isn't a cookie cutter approach to getting back to school.

"The challenge is there are students who will be at risk, there are going to be adults at the home of children at risk, and there will be people out in the community at risk."

Strojny is ready to get back to the classroom with proper safety protocols in place. "Nothing is more important than education. It's a big deal," Strojny said. He says it will be important to accommodate those most at risk.

"They need to feel the positive energy from us and know that there is an end in sight," he said.

Strojny said, "I could not find one school in a country anywhere on the planet that is not going back to school. I looked at schools on the forefront of education, on the forefront of medicine and on the forefront of technology. They are all saying their students must be back in school. It's not just our area saying they need to be back in school."

Strojny has lived outside of the United States where he says people would give everything they have to have an opportunity to get an American education. "They would risk getting the virus, they would risk getting whatever. We're here on the mainland and have an opportunity to go to school with the chances mixed in with the virus. I'm personally willing to take the chance, with safety measures of course. I don't want to be reckless. I think overtime, future generations will be thankful," Strojny said.

Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion believes at this time, the best option is for students to go to school online.

"It's the safest way to keep the percentage for education at the highest level it can be and the COVID numbers as low as they can be," Chassion explained.

Chassion said he realizes in-person instruction would be ideal, but adds that the risks right now are too high. He's concerned about gathering at school and spreading the virus to other people.

"There's more detrimental effects for a kid not going in front of a teacher," said Chassion. "I get that, but if I can recover the academics but not recover a kids life then we need to be aware of the decisions we're making. They're going to affect people for a very long time no matter what we decide."

He's also worried about teachers being out, recognizing that sometimes COVID-19 affects people longer than two weeks. Chassion added that his next concern is bringing in a substitute teacher who likely is also at high risk.

"How do you react to that phone call? Hey, Tehmi Chassion is sick. He has COVID-19 - want to come teach his class? His response will be, 'hell no!' It's being honest with folks and I think the easiest way to go about this is virtual online."

The president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators told KATC that the association appreciates BESE setting minimums for protecting educators and students, but believes the language used leaves too much room for interpretation.

The LPAE says one of their concerns is social distancing. The association is hopeful the central office will exceed BESE's recommendations to keep everyone safe and they're hopeful anonymous reporting of safety violations will be allowed.

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