School leaders assure parents both students, teachers will be safe this upcoming school year

Some teachers concerned about return to school; official assure parents everyone will be safe

LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. (WAFB) - A handful of teachers and staff in the Jefferson Parish school system have tested positive for COVID-19 after the school system’s soft opening Monday, Aug. 3.

Now, advocacy groups in the Baton Rouge area and surrounding parishes, as well as some school district leaders, are looking to assure parents that both teachers and students will be safe when the next school year begins.

The 2020-21 school year starts Friday, Aug. 7 for students in Livingston Parish, and around 93% of those (close to 26,000 students) have opted for in-person learning. Superintendent Joe Murphy says the school system has plans in place to keep students and teachers safe.

“And I will tell you, I truly believe that parents want their children back in school,” said Murphy.

Livingston Parish Schools will open up with a hybrid model this fall, following Phase 2 guidelines that will separate most students into two different groups.

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The groups will alternate weekly which days students learn on-campus and which days they learn at home.

“We’re talking about 8,000 to 8,250 kids, and a little bit less in B, and then, of course, we have our [Group] C kids, which is all our virtual kids, and that number is somewhere right at 2,000 students today,” said Murphy.

Group D is for students participating in in-person learning. It’s around 7,400 students in grades pre-k through 2nd and special needs students.

But how exactly will the students be split up?

“At no time will there be more than 50 percent or more of that schools enrollment on campus. Yes, we’re required to space children out on campus, yes, we’re required to report if there’s any possible cases or anything along those lines,” said Murphy.

But what about keeping teachers safe from catching COVID-19 or possibly spreading it?

“We are requiring our employees to wear masks in the midst of everything. Now, we also know obviously from the guidance k through 2 are not required to wear a mask, that children 3 through 12 are required to wear a mask. We are providing every teacher with sanitizer in their classroom,” said Murphy.

This comes as teachers and staff in Jefferson Parish rallied outside of the school district office Wednesday, Aug. 5 to ask that school officials reconsider opening schools for now, given the current case count in Louisiana. A handful of employees tested positive for COVID-19 since the district’s soft reopening Monday.

“I applaud our [EBR] district for saying that our students would remain home for the month of August and that they will review it after the Labor Day holiday,” said Angela Reams-Brown, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers.

Just two weeks ago in Baton Rouge, local advocacy groups and teachers rallied for the safety of both students and teachers. Reams-Brown says we can all learn something from what happened in Jefferson Parish, to not rush students back to school quite yet.

“Our teachers and support workers love their students. I think I’ve said that before, but they also love themselves and their families, and they fear the thought of going to work and contracting COVID-19 from one of their students, but they also fear going to work and giving COVID-19 to one of their students,” said Reams-Brown.

Murphy says they’re prepared and ready to go to make sure everyone is safe.

Any change in how your children will learn will be dictated by state guidelines and the governor.

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