St. Martin Parish lets parents choose if close-contact students are quarantined; rest of Acadiana hesitates

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Most school districts in Acadiana are hesitant to opt-in to a “parent choice policy” for optional quarantining of close contact students. While the Louisiana Department of Education called it common sense, the Louisiana Department of Health is strongly recommending against it.

News 10 asked each school district in Acadiana if it was a change they wanted. Six School districts in Acadiana did not implement the policy on day one, postponing their decision for various reasons. The St. Martin Parish School District did enact the program starting Thursday.

St. Martin Parish Schools Superintendent Al Blanchard did not want to comment on his decision to make quarantine for students defined who have come into “close contact” with COVID-19 no longer required. Under the new policy, parents will be given the option to quarantine their children or allow them to remain in school.

On Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Education announced the new parent choice quarantine option. With the announcement, State Superintendent Cade Brumley argued, “We can no longer ignore the unintended academic consequences of our students unnecessarily missing school. This new, common-sense option empowers parents and local communities with the authority to make health-related decisions for their students.”

News 10 called each district in Acadiana to learn if the option is one they would implement. Vermilion Parish Superintendent Tommy Byler said, “The lost education time, and the disruption, and the extra work for people is difficult. It’s difficult for teachers, it’s difficult for students, it’s difficult for administrators, but we’re kind of finally crossing, getting to a place where we can control it, and so right now we will wait for guidance from the board to see what they want to do.”

St. Landry Parish Schools also said the decision will be made at the school board meeting. Jeff Davis Parish has not implemented to option because they are awaiting guidance from legal counsel. Lafayette said the option is still under review by staff because they learned of it so recently. Acadia had not decided as of Thursday morning.

Superintendent Carey Laviolette said, “Iberia Parish is not implementing the “parent choice” quarantine option at this time. We have been advised that more detailed guidance is forthcoming next week.”

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) said neither its guidance nor the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance has changed. LDH was not consulted on “Parent Choice”, adding in a statement, “We strongly recommend that school districts follow public health guidance and parents quarantine unvaccinated children who may have been in close contact to someone with COVID. Doing so is critical to slowing the spread and protecting children, families, school staff, and communities at large.”

LDH reported Thursday that said 31% of new coronavirus cases are among children 17 and younger.

News 10 called and e-mailed the Evangeline Parish School District multiple times but did not get an answer regarding their decision for the “Parent Choice” quarantine option.

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