LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Children in Acadiana are returning to school this week with new coronavirus policies. Three school districts had their first school day of 2022 Monday. Four more start Tuesday. News Ten reached out to superintendents across eight parishes about what changes are coming this week or already in place.
For most schools the updated CDC guidance on quarantining positive or close contact cases will immediately go into place. Students and staff who test positive for COVID, regardless of vaccination status, must go home 5 days. Then they can return to school but must wear a mask around others for five more days.
Close contacts are treated slightly differently. Students and staff who have been recently vaccinated or received a booster will not be sent home and only be required to wear masks around others for 10 days. Students and staff who are unvaccinated, were vaccinated more than six months ago, or were vaccinated with Johnson and Johnson more than two months ago, must go home 5 days. Then they can return to school but must wear a mask around others for five more days.
Superintendent Carey Laviolette said increased cases of COVID have also made it difficult to staff both teachers and bus drivers.
“We are using every resource we have to keep kids in the classrooms, so we are using paraprofessionals, librarians, teachers themselves during their prep periods to substitute, and we are having to split bus routes,” Laviolette explained.
Lafayette Parish School System (LPSS) also communicated “staffing may be challenging” in a press release. “Parents should have contingency plans in place in the event that a class or school closes temporarily, or bus routes are canceled because of staff being quarantined due to COVID-19” LPSS Spokesperson Allison Dickerson continued. You can read the full statement here.
Maintaining in-person learning is a top priority across every school district. Vermilion Parish had originally planned for students to return Monday, but they announced postponing students’ return one day to prepare. Staff reviewed new policies, current cleaning practices, and made sure remote and distanced learning tools were ready if necessary.
“We don’t know three or four weeks somebody else other than us may make a decision and say we’re going fully remote,” Vermilion Parish Superintendent Tommy Byler stated. “I mean we hope that doesn’t happen, and I don’t think it will happen, but we want to be prepared.”
All schools are strongly encouraging masks at all times. Masks are still required on all busses due to a federal mandate, but St. Landry Parish Schools are requiring masks when students return to the classroom Tuesday. Superintendent Patrick Jenkins explained, “I believe that wearing a face covering is one of several preventive tools (get vaccinated and boosted, get testing before travel, gatherings and upon return and social distancing to the maximize extent possible) to best mitigate the rapid spread of the omicron variant in our communities. I also believe that the best place to educate our children is school, face to face.”
Jeff Davis Parish Superintendent Kirk Credeur told News 10 no schools or bus routes were limited Monday due to the pandemic. He hopes the CDC guidance allows for more in-person learning in the short and long term.
“What we’ve learned from this whole COVID mess is the importance of face-to-face instruction. You can’t beat it,” Credeur insisted. “It’s the best. Some kids do well virtually, but most do not. It’s not the most efficient for a lot of kids.”
St. Martin Parish Schools have also made their plans available over the holiday weekend. Superintendent Al Blanchard said in part over social media:
“At this time, the St. Martin Parish School Board will allow extra curricular sporting activities to continue with precautionary measures in place. These guidelines are subject to change based upon the numbers of cases in schools, a change in St. Martin Parish School Board policy or a mandate from the governor’s office.”Al Blanchard, St. Martin Parish Superintendent
Acadia Parish Schools Superintendent Scott Richard sent News 10 an updated COVID policy for when students return Thursday, January 6. His statement includes:
“We will continue to carefully monitor the latest wave of COVID-19 in our community. As always we are working to keep the safety of our students, families and staff as a priority in order to continue moving forward with the education process. It is imperative that we all take an active role in reducing the spread of this virus to the greatest extent possible and working together is key to promoting a safe learning environment…”Scott Richard, Acadia Parish Superintendent
News 10 also reached out to Evangeline Parish, but our calls and messages were not returned.