LINCOLN PARISH, LA (6/26/20)– While COVID-19 has left many things uncertain, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Health Department have worked together to give guidelines that must be followed if public and non-public schools in the state want to reopen.
“We were looking for something that would help us get information to parents, to let them know what school is going to look like this coming August. The guidelines will prove to be very helpful,” said Mike Milstead, State Superintendent of Education.
The guideline requirements for reopening depends on what phase the state is in when school starts. When it comes to group sizes:
- PHASE 1: 10 people, including adults
- PHASE 2: 25 people, including adults
- PHASE 3: 50 people, including adults
“We’re looking at being ready to do all classes virtually if we have to, but it’s probably going to be a hybrid between those two. We think most of our parents prefer to have a classroom setting face to face with the children,” said Milstead.
Adults and students, 3rd grade and up, are required to wear face coverings during arrival, dismissal, in the classroom, and any other transition within the school building. Any child over the age of 2 may wear a face covering. Individuals with severe breathing difficulties should not wear a face covering.
Lincoln Parish Superintendent, Mike Milstead, says when it comes to eating lunch, meals will most likely be “grab and go”. High school students will be allowed to eat outside or in classrooms. For younger kids, they will stay in the cafeteria but will social distance.
High touch surfaces must be cleaned multiple times a day, including bathrooms. LDH suggests Hand washing at arrival, at least every two hours, before and after eating, before and after using outdoor play equipment, and at the exit.
Milstead says they are expecting 10 to 20 percent of parents to keep their kids home this school year or until a vaccine is available.
“If they are comfortable with that, then we would encourage them to do that. Of course, we prefer to see them in school every day. At the same time, we do understand and will be sympathetic to their concerns,” said Milstead.
According to the LDH guidelines, school bus transportation will also have requirements.
- PHASE1: Bus capacity is 25 percent. One rider per seat, unless members of the same family. Every other seat will be empty.
- PHASE 2: Bus capacity is 50 percent. Passengers will be distanced to the max extent possible.
- PHASE 3: Bus capacity is 75 percent. Passengers will be distanced to the max extent possible.
Milstead says this could be a problem if the state stays in phase 2, but they will find a workable solution.
“That is a problem for us. We don’t have the finical resources nor do we have the time to run two routes every day and get everyone to school in a timely fashion,” said Milstead.
LDH requires students to be assessed for symptoms on arrival and throughout the day. An area will be isolated for sick students. The isolated area will be cleaned and disinfected when a sick child goes home.
“We take that very seriously. We want them to understand that when COVID does come up in our school system, as we think inevitable it will, then we will make sure they have the good information they need to make a decision that is best for our children,” said Milstead.
In addition to the guideline requirements, the band and choir will not be able to practice until phase 3, as saliva can be transmitted easily. Athletic activities are allowed to resume with the recommendations put forth in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s guidance for opening up high school athletics and activities.
The LDH has also given out suggested practices, but they are not required by schools. Lincoln Parish school officials say they plan to follow as many practices as possible. Lincoln Parish will have their first day of school on Friday, August 14th.
To see the full guidelines from the Department of Education, click HERE.