In partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health and Resilient Louisiana Commission, the Louisiana Department of Education released guidance on Thursday, June 25 for Louisiana Guidelines for Reopening Schools across the state. Each district will ultimately decide how schools will operate. The guidelines in place offer best practices that encourage districts to prepare for three possible reopening scenarios: traditional, hybrid, or distance/remote learning.
The guidelines offer an outline for what to expect and how schools will respond to a COVID-19 positive or presumptive positive case on campus.
“We developed this guidance by engaging experts on the virus – public health officials – and experts on what this guidance looks like when put into practice – school leaders and educators,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. “We understand next year will be a new challenge for all of us as we educate through COVID-19. I have confidence in our collective talents to overcome these challenges. We will depend on each other for innovative ideas, best practices and the promise of a quality education for every child.”
Louisiana Guidelines for Reopening Schools: What Parents Need To know
The guidelines state that, given the current levels of COVID-19 in Louisiana, schools should plan for and expect that some students will get the virus during the school year. Schools who have identified staff or students with COVID-19 will need to plan for deep cleaning, ensure continuity of education for quarantined students and staff, and prepare for a 3-5 day school closure. The decision to close schools would be an individual, case-by-case process and ultimately made by school leadership, according to the guidelines.
Whenever possible, schools will ensure a school nurse or health care professional is available to support screening and isolation procedures. Shared water fountains will be closed so it is encouraged that students and staff bring bottled water from home. If possible, classrooms will be utilized for eating in place.
Protective measures in school settings include
- Social distancing, achieved by establishing and, for the maximum number of days possible, maintaining small groups of individuals that minimally interact with other groups or individuals, including in shared indoor spaces.
- Monitoring students and staff for symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
- Practicing frequent environmental cleaning and handwashing.
Three Key Principles
- Wash hands often – hand washing will take place after arrival, before and after eating, before and after using outdoor play equipment, at exits, and after changing classrooms.
- Adults and students in 3rd grade and up should wear a face covering. Those with severe breathing difficulties, according to LDOE, need not wear face coverings.
- Practice 6-feet of social distancing
Environmental Cleaning and Personal Hygiene
- Handwashing at arrival, at least every two hours, before and after eating, before and after using outdoor play equipment and at exit
- Adults and students (3rd grade and up) should wear face coverings, as able, to the maximum extent possible. Any child over age two may wear a face covering. Face coverings should be worn in all areas of the school. This includes classrooms. Most importantly, face coverings should be worn during arrival, dismissal, and any other transition within the school building. Individuals with severe breathing difficulties should not wear face coverings.
School Planning for COVID-19 Cases
- Students who are sick should stay home (regardless of illness).
- Students who have COVID-19 should stay home and remain isolated until they have recovered and have been determined to no longer be infectious by their doctor.
- Individuals who were in close contact with the student may be identified and contacted as part of the Office of Public Health (OPH) contact tracing process.
- Close contact of a case is a person who was less than six feet away from the student for more than 15 minutes, determined by the OPH contact tracing process.
- Close contacts will be asked to stay home and monitor symptoms for 14 days.
- Not every student/faculty member in a school will need to stay home for 14 days, just those who are identified as close contacts to a case.
IMPLEMENT SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES
School Facility Use Considerations
- Remove unused desks and furniture in classrooms to maximize physical distance and minimize objects that must be cleaned.
- Establish distance between the teacher’s desk/board and students’ desks.
- Identify and utilize large spaces (e.g., gymnasiums, auditoriums, outside spaces) to enable physical distancing in Phases 2 and 3.
- Teachers maintain social distancing guidelines and teach from one location in the classroom if possible.
School Transition Considerations
- Provide additional time for transitions.
- Designate areas of the hallway (i.e., lanes) as flow paths to keep students separated and to minimize congregation of students.
- Plan staggered class changes (e.g., by hall, odd/even room numbers, grade/discipline) to decrease the number of students in hallways at one time.
STUDENT DROP-OFF AND PICK-UP PROCESSES
- Ask students to enter and exit in single-file lines to enable physical distance.
- Establish one or two entry and egress points that enable the flow of students to move in a single direction.
- Do not allow visitors in the school building except under extenuating circumstances; adults entering the building should wash or sanitize hands prior to entering.
- Establish hand hygiene stations at the entrance to the facility so students can clean their hands before they enter. If a sink with soap and water is not available, provide hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and supervise its use.
- Encourage families to drive their children to school if possible. This will reduce student numbers on buses.
LARGE GATHERINGS AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
- Assemblies are limited to maximum group sizes and with appropriate physical distancing in place. For younger students unable to maintain physical distance, maintain static groups.
- All attendees should wear a face covering.
- Students and teachers should wash hands before and after events.
- Discontinue field trips as students may engage with vulnerable populations.
- Afterschool programs may continue but must adhere to maximum group sizes and physical distance protocols. For younger students unable to maintain physical distance, maintain static groups.
ATHLETICS, BAND AND VOCAL MUSIC
- Athletic activities are allowed to resume with the recommendations put forth in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Guidance.
- Band and vocal music may resume in Phase 3, with physical distance recommendations in effect.
“Ensuring a strong start for students and educators this fall means equipping school districts with the resources they need to develop a solid reopening strategy,” said Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Sandy Holloway. “The tools and guidance released today, created in partnership with state health officials, will help school systems expand their existing academic plans to accommodate the operational changes necessitated by COVID-19 and strengthen the foundation for continuous learning going forward.”
ENSURE TRANSPORTATION STAFF FOLLOW SAFETY AND HYGIENE PROTOCOLS
The risks associated with student transportation in buses have not been studied to date. As a result, these recommendations are derived from school operating procedures and the best “reasonable standard” given feasibility constraints.
- Seating and Social Distancing Buses should operate at 25 percent of their normal capacity in Phase 1, 50 percent of their normal capacity during Phase 2, and 75 percent of their normal capacity during Phase 3, with appropriate spacing.