BESE sets minimum health, safety standards for Louisiana schools

The action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic applies to all traditional public, charter and nonpublic schools in the state

BESE sets minimum health, safety standards for Louisiana schools
(Source: WAFB)

(KSLA) — Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members today adopted minimum health and safety standards for the reopening of the state’s K-12 schools this fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

BESE’s policy shifts apply to all traditional public, charter and nonpublic schools in Louisiana.

The safety of students and educators is on everyone’s mind as Louisiana prepares to reopen school facilities this fall, and it is an issue that BESE takes very seriously,” BESE President Sandy Holloway says in a statement about today’s action.

“We appreciate the input of all who contacted us in advance of the meeting to express their concerns, and those who participated in the discussion today. The standards unanimously adopted reflect this statewide conversation and the extensive collaboration between education stakeholders and public health leaders. The result is a practical framework of required safety measures upon which school systems will build the best reopening plan for their communities.”

The policies outline baseline public health requirements for school boards and local governing authorities to follow when reopening facilities to students this fall.

Now each local governing agency is required to adopt policies in line with the state’s standards before the 2020-21 academic year begins. And they must submit a plan to the state Education Department addressing each phase of reopening.

“I’m grateful to BESE for their thoughtful, steady leadership during this uncertain time,” Louisiana Education Superintendent Cade Brumley says in the statement. “This sets minimum health and safety standards for every school in the state, while also allowing for local decision making by system leaders.”

Following is verbatim from the general summary of the standards provided by the state. Some are contingent upon whether Louisiana’s coronavirus response is in Phase I, Phase II, Phase III or Phase IV.

  • Group sizes: The maximum group size that may convene indoors in a single room or outdoors at any time are 10 individuals (phase 1), 25 individuals (phase 2), and 50 individuals (phase 3).
  • Group composition: Younger students unable to wear face coverings or maintain physical distancing should be assigned static groups, which must include at minimum, students in grade 2 or lower. The composition of a group may change if students are able to maintain physical distancing. Students with disabilities must continue to receive special education services in the least restrictive environment possible.
  • Physical standards for use of school facilities: Groups that convene indoors must do so in a room enclosed by a wall or partition. If groups convene outdoors, each group must remain separated. Schools must limit crowding at entry and exit points to the greatest extent possible. Maximum group sizes and physical distance recommendations must be maintained. High-touch surfaces in rooms used by multiple groups must be cleaned before and after use by each group.
  • COVID-19 symptoms monitoring: Upon arriving at the school facility, each student and adult must be assessed for symptoms of COVID-19 as defined by the CDC, to include an initial temperature check. Each school must establish an isolation area for anyone showing signs of being sick, which must be cleaned after being occupied by a sick individual.
  • Face coverings: While inside the school facility, all adults and students in grades 3 through 12 must wear a face covering to the greatest extent possible and practical within the local community context. Students in grades pre-K through 2 may wear a face covering. Children under age 2 and individuals with breathing difficulties should not wear a face covering.
  • Facility cleaning: High-touch surfaces must be cleaned multiple times a day, including bathrooms.
  • Personal hygiene: Students must wash or sanitize hands upon arrival at the school, at least every two hours, before and after eating or using outdoor play equipment, and before exiting the school facility.
  • Hygienic supplies: School employees must be provided adequate access to supplies such as soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, paper towels, tissues, and face coverings when needed. Appropriate quantities are to be provided according to the role, number, and age of students served by the employee.
  • Student transportation: Buses must not exceed 25 percent capacity in phase 1, 50 percent in phase 2, and 75 percent in phase 3, spaced to the greatest extent possible according to the current reopening phase.
  • Determinations of student placement in a distance or in-person education program: Determinations are made in consideration of the student’s unique academic, social, emotional, familial, and medical needs, in consultation with the student’s parent or custodian.
  • Exceptions: LEAs will address medical or disability exceptions on an individual basis in accordance with local policies.

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