“So that’s one thing I told the principals,” begins Allen Blanchard, Superintendent of St. Martin Parish Schools, “put your plan together, prepare, put it out there, be ready, trained on what they need to do. And after the first day of school, you’re gonna’ have to make some changes, there are some things that just didn’t work out the way you intended, so be prepared to make some changes and stick to the guidelines.”
So it will no doubt be changes upon changes. But changes or not, the long-delayed start of the school year is here in St. Martin Parish. And the superintendent is ready.
“Yeah, very much so. It’s time for us to get back to business,” says Blanchard.
Back to business at St. Martinville Primary School will involve adjustments, tweaks, and health procedures Principal Lisa Sylvester has never had to deal with. “I’ve put several protocols in place: Restroom usage, isolation room, isolation restroom also, and I’m going to have an LPN there, as need.” And when it comes to cleaning, Sylvester will be right there on the school’s front lines. “I’m gonna’ be out in the hallways. I have my apron; I have my gloves. I’ll be right there with the custodians, checking everything out, keeping everything disinfected as much as we can.”
Approximately half of her students will start the year participating in online classes, and Sylvester is confident about that will go. She’s also got plenty of outdoor activities ready as well.
Her biggest challenge may be curtailing her desire to see her 2nd—3rd-4th and 5th graders up close and because she has missed her kids very much. She will have to refrain… from hugging.
“Oh, it’s just gonna’ be hard. I know this summer when I was here somebody would come to drop things off –they’d go to the front door and they wanted to hug me, but I had to stay away. It is hard.”
Other schools and school systems have opened, some since mid-August. That, adds Blanchard, could prove to be very beneficial to St. Martin Parish and its pandemic-related opening. “This is a first for everybody,” he says. “We have a local group of superintendents who meet regularly, and we throw things at each other and try different things. And those that have opened, we’ve talked to them, we saw what was working and what wasn’t, and we try to learn from that.”
Whatever successes the 17 schools and 7800 students in St. Martin Parish have this year will require a team effort. Following guidelines, being flexible, working together.
“That’s correct,” agrees Blanchard. “Everybody the bus drivers, the custodians, the cafeteria ladies, the teachers, the supervisors, the principals, everybody’s played a part in getting this thing going.”
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