Louisiana Releases Guidelines for Reopening Schools During Pandemic
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Students will be wearing face masks and washing their hands many times a day when Louisiana schools reopen for the 2020-21 school year in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Whether there’s band and chorus will depend on the state’s reopening status — or the parish’s, if that’s more restrictive — under 16 pages of reopening guidelines released Thursday by Louisiana’s Department of Education.
School systems need to have plans for all-classroom, all-distance and hybrid teaching. If possible, they should have a laptop or tablet for every student.
Two pages of the guidelines are state health department requirements; the rest are “best practices” suggestions for which each district has the final say, said department spokesman Ted Beasley.
Adults and students need to wash their hands at least every two hours, including when they arrive and leave and before and after eating or using outdoor play equipment, the requirements state.
Students in preschool through second grade don’t have to wear masks, and people with severe breathing problems shouldn’t wear them, the guidelines note. Otherwise, they should be worn everywhere, including classrooms.
“Any child over age two may wear a face covering,” the guidelines stated.
For athletics, the department referred districts to Louisiana High School Athletic Association guidelines.
Many aspects depend on the state’s reopening phase. For instance, band and chorus will be allowed once the state goes into phase 3. Maximum group sizes — including adults — would be limited to 25 people if the state is still in phase 2 when schools reopen. If it’s in phase 3, they could be up to 50 people. If the state has to revert to phase 1, the limit would be 10.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that the current phase 2 restrictions will last at least until July 24 because of an increase in cases.
Hours after the guidelines were made public, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that 53,415 people in the state have tested positive for the disease. That’s 938 more than Wednesday and comes after daily increases of more than 1,300 and more than 880.
Hospitalizations also are on the rise, from 631 Wednesday to 653 on Thursday. And 12 more people have died from the disease, bringing the toll to at least 3,051.
For most people, the highly contagious coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.
By AP reporter Janet McConnaughey