Louisiana Board Sets Minimum Standards for School Reopenings

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Teachers and students will have to wear face coverings as much as possible, schools will be limited to visitors and classrooms for young students could become a sort of one-room schoolhouse, under new coronavirus regulations for Louisiana schools approved Tuesday by the state’s top school board.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the minimum safety standards for schools reopening this fall without objection, a day before the deadline set by state lawmakers.

“These restrictions will be onerous on any school, but they will put the school in the best position possible to minimize spread (of the virus) and absenteeism,” Dr. Joseph Kanter, assistant state medical director with the Louisiana Department of Health, told board members, according to a report from The Advertiser.

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The rules include a mask mandate for students in grades 3 through 12, though with language applying the face coverings “to the greatest extent possible and practical.”

Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley recommended the regulations governing the reopening of about 1,700 schools across Louisiana in coordination with state health officials and other medical experts.

Younger students in second grade and below — who are not required to wear face coverings and are less likely to maintain a physical distance from other students or adults — are expected to be placed in assigned static groups, rather than using class changes. Brumley equated it to the old model of a one-room schoolhouse.

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Among the other regulations, schools must limit groups, follow distancing standards and employ frequent cleaning. People who show signs of being sick must be isolated in a separate area. Temperature checks will be required to enter school premises. School buses will have capacity limits, and students will have to be spaced out when riding.

Those testing positive for the virus are not to return to campus until determined to be non-infectious by their doctor, but “a positive case of COVID-19 does not necessarily warrant the closure of schools,” Brumley said.

Dr. Leron Finger, chief qualify officer at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, said the minimum standards were “medically sound” and that “it is safe and reasonable to return to school.”

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The state education board and education department won’t enforce the standards, Brumley said. That will fall to individual school districts.

Medical or disability exceptions to the protocols will be addressed individually by school districts, which also will be submitting operations plans to the state Department of Education before the first day of school this fall.

Brumley said school systems must submit plans that indicate whether they will teach classes in person, online or in a hybrid model; how they’ll deliver meals; what staff and student attendance they expect; and how they’ll communicate to families.

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