Despite A Motion To Delay, LPSS Board Members Keep Aug 17th Start
After another vote of the Lafayette Parish School Board, members confirmed a hybrid start of the school year as laid out in the Learn Lafayette 2020-2021 initial plan. A 5-4 vote was cast to approve the plan overall.
Back to School on August 17th
Despite a motion to delay the start of school until after Labor Day, Lafayette Parish School Board members voted to keep the August 17th start date. The vote was 4 to 4 with Board Member Justin Centanni absent due to a family illness.
Board Member Dr. Tehmi Chassion who made the motion to delay changed his vote to abstain because he knew Centanni would have voted to start on August 17th. In the next motion, board members voted on how to start school: all virtual or hybrid as was presented in the initial plan.
Tonight's meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board covered several topics on the agenda, but the issue of reopening schools next month took center stage. The Learn Lafayette 2020-2021 plan includes options for reopening depending on the phase of reopening in the state of Louisiana.
Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Garnder detailed the precautions that will be taken on campus and consistent messaging in the form of signage at all schools. Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout campuses with specific cleaning protocols in place. Seating charts will be implemented in all classrooms and buses to assist in contract tracing efforts if a student or teacher tests positive. Temperatures will be taken twice per day by teachers. The district has ordered touchless thermometers and backup batteries that will be given out to teachers. Gardner says faculty and staff will be screened by thermal cameras at the school's main entrance and the entrance of the school office.
Plexiglass barriers have been constructed and will be in place for the first day of school on-call campuses. They will be positioned at the front office, library check-in desks, and any other "walk-up" areas where students and teachers interact.
Transportation Supervisor Johnathon Watson says face coverings will be required by students in all grade levels when they ride the bus. Bus capacities, while the state is in Phase 2, will be limited to 50% and may require a bus driver to make multiple runs.
Keeping The Main Thing The Main Thing
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Mark Rabalais addressed some concerns about virtual learning in the younger grades. According to the plan, K-2 at home learning will be on printed handouts as needed. Starting in 3rd grade, online/virtual assignments will be assigned. In the presentation, Rabalais laid out a plan that would
This plan is completely separate from the Lafayette Online Academy which is 100-percent online and available to all families.
Phased Dependent Learning is the model that has been built to support teachers to toggle between at school and virtual learning. It's based on the state's current phase of reopening. Currently, it's expected Louisiana will be in Phase 2 at the scheduled start of school. The hybrid plan is detailed here.
- Phase 1 - Completely Virtual
- Phase 2 - Hybrid (A/B Schedule)
- Phase 3 - 5-Day In-Person Class
One father who has a kindergartener and a 4th grader said he doesn't trust that technology will be available for virtual learning. The district says that technology for grades 3-12 is in place, but Chromebooks for K-2 are delayed and may not be delivered until October or November. He also said he's sad that his younger child will have this as her first experience in public school.
UL Lafayette Political Science Professor Pearson Cross came to the podium as a member of the public and parent to two students in the district. He spoke out against reopening schools even partially. Cross says the state is actually in a Phase 1 situation numbers-wise and that the pandemic warrants an all-virtual model.
Azadeh Yazdi, a parent and former employee of Lafayette Parish Schools, criticized the fact that the area around the podium for public comment was not cleaned between speakers. She said that due to a medical condition she couldn't wear a mask and that her school-aged child would not be wearing a mask on campus. She cited legal protections against disclosing the medical condition she suffers from.
More comments came from a grandmother of three students in the district. She is recently recovered from COVID-19 and is concerned that her grandkids could bring the virus home to her. She says she never had a temperature during the illness and that temperature checks of students are not enough to keep COVID-positive students off of campuses. She says it our area is just not prepared to go back to school.