BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) – The surge in coronavirus cases, fueled by the Delta variant, has state school leaders keeping a close eye on the situation.
The Louisiana Department of Education recently released a list of recommendations on how to handle COVID-19 this upcoming school year, but things could change by the time teachers and students return to class soon.
Students in Acadiana will go back to class in about three weeks. Teachers will report in about 2 weeks.
“Last year, although it was stressful, Louisiana had one of the most successful approaches to having school in the country,” said Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent Cade Brumley.
Brumley says they’re keeping a close eye on the “fluid” situation, and will make changes if necessary.
“We are watching this Delta variant and watching it unfold. One of the lessons systems learned last year was to toggle back and forth from being more or less restrictive,” said Brumley.
There are two big differences heading into this school year. First, there’s no mask mandate. Governor John Bel Edwards lifted that back in April. Plus, there’s no state mandate for school districts to come up with COVID-19 safety plans to return to class. All virus-related decisions will be made locally.
“Ultimately, at this point, the decision will be made at that local level where system leaders and boards know their kids best,” said Brumley.
DOE consulted health officials before releasing to the local school districts a roadmap to deal with COVID-19 safety going forward. It’s called “Ready to Achieve”, and it’s based on CDC recommendations.
They include: three feet of space between each student in class, all unvaccinated adults and students in grades 3 through 12 should wear a mask, and everyone on a school bus, vaccinated or not, must wear a mask.
“We need to do whatever it takes to make sure our kids are able to be in school face-to-face over the next school year,” said Brumley.
The pandemic had a big impact on schools in Acadiana last year. For example, 85 schools in Lafayette Parish reported, between October 2020, and May of 2021, that there were 1,328 students, and 495 faculty, staff, and volunteers, who contracted the virus. Those are by far the highest numbers in Acadiana, and the 4th highest in the state.
“We know our efforts were our best efforts. Schools were not super spreaders of the virus,” said Brumley.
Brumley says if the situation gets worse, and more restrictions are handed down, the DOE can act quickly, make changes, and communicate with local school districts.