Lafayette School Board approves on-campus and virtual reopening plan for Aug. 17

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LAFAYETTE, La (KLFY) – The Lafayette Parish School System (LPSS) approved their initial reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year, but not without some concerns.

Depending on Louisiana’s reopening phase, classrooms could vary from hosting all students to going completely virtual. Under phase two, the plan is somewhere in between.

Lafayette Parish Schools will reopen August 17 with combined online and on-campus learning. Under phase two guidelines, students will be broken into a Group A and Group B who will alternate in-person learning schedules.

“We wanted a model academically that would allow teachers to toggle,” explained LPSS Chief Academics Officer Dr. Mark Rabalais during a presentation of the district’s initial opening plan.

When Lafayette schools reopen, a flexible method is set to pioneer a return to public education.

As the Office of Public Health Region 4 Medical Director Dr. Tina Stefanski stated, “I don’t think any other country has opened schools with the number of cases we’ve got currently circulating.”

Not every member of the school board agreed with the plan. District 4 representative Dr. Tehmi Chassion proposed, “I’d like to make a motion that we delay the start of school to after Labor Day.”

The public suggested at least a delay or going further since Louisiana has the second-highest in coronavirus cases per capita in all America, closely behind New York.

One grandmother who survived COVID-19, Pamela Thibeaux, warned temperature checks are not enough because fever was not one of the symptoms she faced. She said,
“This thing is serious. This thing is still going up. Me personally, I don’t think we’re ready for that.”

Some cited concerns for students’ health but more so the faculty, staff, and people at home. Others argued the loss of education should be a concern as well.

“Our children have been out of school for such a long time,” District 8 Representative Hannah Smith Mason reminded the crowd. “We’ve been out long enough, and I would love to try at least going back on August 17.”

LPSS Chief Academics Officer Dr. Mark Rabalais presents the district’s initial opening plan.

The council was split on many decisions, including a 4-4 vote to delay the first day of school and a 4-4 vote to begin the school year entirely virtually.

Knowing it will affect 32,000 students and anyone they interact with, Dr. Chassion said, “This is, one of if not and probably is, the most important decision we’ve made as a school board ever. Ever.”

In the case of the 4-4 votes, Chassion moved his vote to abstain so a quarantined member Justin Centanni representing district 6 did not have to break the ties in favor of reopening as the original plan subscribed.

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