(WAFB) - On Wednesday, April 15, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that public schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
However, he says education for students will continue via distance learning.
Acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux issued a statement emphasizing the need for continued learning and for strong preparation for the 2020-21 school year.
“We respect the decision of the governor to extend the closure of school facilities to students for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year to ensure the health and safety of our citizens,” Scioneaux said.
The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) says students must be prepared for the 2020-21 school year, saying the next six weeks are critical in that planning. Schools must be ready to:
- Identify every child’s learning level
- Implement a plan to ensure every child is ready to build on that learning level, including strategies for extra academic time and continued use of high-quality curriculum
- Support the Class of 2020 in the successful transition to life after high school graduation
LDOE says it will release guidance to school systems about how to proceed soon. More information can be found here.
“We will continue to support the school districts as much as we can. We’ll be talking more to the superintendents and other school leaders tomorrow [Thursday, April 16] with additional guidance,” said Scioneaux.
Distance learning will be decided by each school district. That includes in some rural parishes where students may not have internet access. We don’t know whether the 2020-21 school year will start early; that may be up to each school district as well. It appears seniors are still going to graduate on schedule as well.
As for students getting to the next grade level, it will be up to individual school districts.
“It will be up to the individual school districts. They will use a variety of school work in order to judge that. At this time, we will likely not recommend pass, fail,” said Scioneaux.
"On March 13, everything’s frozen at that point. We’re not going to do anything to harm a student at that point forward,” said East Baton Parish School System Superintendent Warren Drake.
The governor is also telling school officials to prepare for a potentially difficult start in the fall.
“It’s not too early to start looking at what school looks like next school year, because we are not going to have the vaccine in place, and so you’re liable to see schools taking in without large assemblies,” said Governor Edwards, who also explained students may have to arrive on campus and leave at different times as well.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has also responded to the governor’s proclamation:
“With the announcement of statewide school facilities closure for the rest of this academic year, we call on school districts to ensure learning for all students and the continuation of food service. We must now move ahead with a sense of urgency and thoughtfulness in developing plans for the future that address and correct learning gaps resulting from COVID-19. As such, I have tapped BESE Members Ashley Ellis and Preston Castille to take the lead for the Board in liaising with the Louisiana Department of Education as they outline an academic plan for the future. BESE remains committed to prioritizing students, their learning, and engaging stakeholders as our state navigates these uncharted waters. There will be many opportunities and challenges ahead as we continue to work together during these uncertain times; in the meantime, schools and school systems need to be supported in their decisions in providing services to all populations of students, encouraging the use of materials and resources that are already in use," said Sandy Holloway, BESE president.
Numerous schools districts are reacting to the decision and releasing information to help parents.
For instance, Ascension Public Schools Superintendent David Alexander says the district’s technology depot is open for business, so to speak.
“Our position on grades has not changed. Students will continue to be given instruction and assignments with academic feedback for the 4th Quarter. They will be given the opportunity to bring their course grades up at no risk of grades falling lower than the average of their first three quarters. However, it is important for you to know the progress they are making towards mastery of content as it will help identify possible learning gaps that may need to be addressed for the next school year. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal of furthering the educational attainment of students so that they can be successful in their pursuits,” Alexander said.
“We know you have many questions about the end of year events and celebrations such as graduation. We do not have all of the answers for you yet, but please know that we are actively exploring ways in which to honor students for the work they have done this year. We certainly want to celebrate the Class of 2020 and other children in a meaningful way that is safe for all," Alexander said. "I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank our teachers and staff, school leaders and all employees who remain committed to serving children. And, that work would not be successful without the partnership and support of our parents and community. We are grateful for that partnership and look forward to the successful outcomes that we will experience together.”
The Iberville Parish School System says it’s also working on ways to continue effective distance learning.
“We’re going to start next week from every school, handing out these computers,” said Drake.
Some students in Baton Rouge have either already been engaging in distance learning, or have been completing take-home packets.
But all students should have the ability to learn virtually soon.
“It’s going to be teaching like we’re talking right now [ZOOM]. It’s going to be teacher to students interactions, so I think it’s going to be great and it’s going to be different,” said Drake.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS) has also been providing educational resources for parents and will continue to do so. Those materials are accessible online here. EBRPSS Superintendent Warren Drake says Chromebook distribution will take place starting the week of April 20 and that it will take two weeks to distribute them all. Virtual learning should be in place by May 1 or 2. If parents are having trouble accessing WiFi, they should call 225-400-7451.
“We will be ready early next week to announce our intentions at LPPS for the remainder of the year and beyond. I am still waiting on guidance from LDOE to finalize our plan of action," said Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy.
Likewise, the Pointe Coupee Parish School System has responded to the announcement.
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