By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana school systems can stay in Phase 3 of the official guidelines meant to control the spread of COVID-19, even though the rest of the state has moved to a modified version of Phase 2, the state school board president says.
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Sandy Holloway says she has approved emergency rules that allow, but do not require, school leaders to continue to follow Phase 3 reopening and operational guidelines.
BESE in July approved minimum health and safety standards for opening K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The standards vary depending on which of the three phases the state is in at a given time; the lower the phase, the more stringent the precautions.
For example, maximum group sizes range from 10 to 25 to 50, while bus capacity runs from 25 percent to 50 percent to 75 percent. While inside a school, adults and students in grades 3 through 12 must wear a face covering “to the greatest extent possible.”
Current guidelines call for a 14-day quarantine for someone who has been in close proximity to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Several superintendents have called for modifying that rule, saying it keeps too many students away from school and extracurricular activities for too long, possibly stunting educational and social development.
“The Board and the [Louisiana Department of Education] appreciate the work of everyone to keep students and educators safe while providing educational opportunities,” Holloway says in a letter to school system leaders. “Please be mindful that the COVID-19 is present in our communities and we must all do our part to help mitigate its spread.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards last week moved Louisiana from Phase 3 of the White House-approved guidelines to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 back to Phase 2, while noting that local school officials still will have the final say on whether and how to hold in-person classes. Maximum capacity for restaurants, gyms and most retailers was scaled back from 75 percent to 50 percent, while churches will stay at 75 percent.
Indoor gatherings under Phase 2 are limited to no more than 75 people, while outdoor gatherings will be capped at 150 people. Crowds at sporting events will be limited to 25 percent of normal capacity. The state requirement to wear face coverings stays in place.