The Morehouse Parish School Board considered a plan to upgrade health safety equipment in schools in advance of the 2021-2022 school year beginning next month.

During its regular meeting on July 13, School Board members discussed how to re-open schools in the safest manner possible, referring to the recent COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing concerns about the novel coronavirus.

The public can review and comment on the plan via the School Board’s website. However, the plan is subject to change at any time depending on guidance from the state Department of Education’s and other government agencies.

“We’re doing everything we can to protect their children,” said Rick Hixon, District 4 School Board member.

Morehouse Parish schools are upgrading their air ventilation systems with UV diffusers. The diffusers purify the air that enters the vents so possibly infected air does not recirculate.

Schools are expected to buy floor scrubber machines to disinfect buildings. The Monroe City School District agreed to train all custodians to operate the machines, according to Ersula Downs, the school system's business manager.

Water bottle filling stations will be installed on the water fountains in schools to make drinking water safe from contamination. School supply lists will ask students bring a reusable bottle to school each day.

These upgrades will be funded through American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Students can choose to attend school through virtual, hybrid or traditional classes.

“The truth of the matter is school is probably the safest place,” said Louis Melton, District 2 School Board member.

Students wanting to take virtual lessons must apply by July 29. A mandatory instruction orientation is scheduled for that same day. Parents and students must attend.

A reengagement liaison will be hired to monitor virtual students. The liaison will communicate directly with parents, teachers and students to encourage productivity.

The plan will not be officially approved until July 27 during a special School Board meeting.

District 1 School Board member Karen Diel was absent for the meeting.

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