Ouachita Parish School officials say plans to reopen school classrooms this fall are fluid and subject to change as state officials continue to discuss responses to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

At its meeting last week, the Ouachita Parish School Board discussed what school operations would look like, depending on whether the school system was in Phase One, Two or Three in its Coronavirus recovery response. (The School Board’s phases do not correspond to the same phases in President Trump’s Opening Up America Again plan.)

For Ouachita Parish Schools, Phase One would mean online learning and/or no more than 10 people in a classroom; Phase Two allows no more than 25 people in a classroom; and Phase Three expands the in-person limit to 50 people.

Ouachita Parish Schools’ 2020-2021 school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 12.

Superintendent Don Coker told the School Board that plans to reopen school classrooms could change if needed, depending on restrictions imposed by the state.

“As we are looking at the plans to reopen our schools, understand that this is a fluid plan,” Coker said. “Fluid meaning that it very well could change depending on actions by the governor, actions by the Department of Health and Hospitals and actions by our BESE members.”

Coker said the plans created followed the guidance received from the state Department of Education, state Department of Health and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office.

The reopening entailed three possible phases.

“Keep in mind, we are talking about a phase we hope never comes back,” Coker said. “We are currently in Phase Two but there is a plan for Phase One if it goes back to that.”

PHASE ONE

Plans for reopening parish schools in Phase One — the most limited plan in terms of social gatherings — would include Pre-K through 12th grade students receiving online distance instruction using Google Meet and Google Classroom.

Online distance instruction refers to online schooling during the three phases — not the virtual instruction program recently launched by the School Board.

In light of the limitations on transportation and group sizes, schools would seek to provide face-to-face instruction as an option to students with significant disabilities.

School buses would operate at 25 percent capacity, adults included.

An emergency feeding program would be installed. Select schools would provide two breakfasts and two lunches at the same time on Mondays and three breakfasts and lunches at the same time on Wednesdays. Meals would be ready in a to-go box or bag for curb-side pick-up.

PHASE TWO

Phase Two plans for Ouachita Parish schools would entail Pre-K through 5th grade students attending school on a daily basis maintaining static groups of 25 or less, which would include teachers.

Static groups would involve the same group of students staying together throughout each day.

Students’ temperatures would be checked daily in the first period homeroom.

Face coverings would be required for grades 3—12 with an exception for people with breathing difficulties defined by the CDC.

Grades 6-12 would attend school via online learning and on-campus learning in alternative schedules such as an A-B schedule. An A-B schedule would have some students attending school on Monday and Wednesday with alternating Fridays and other students attending school Tuesday and Thursday with alternating Fridays.

School buses would run at a 50-percent capacity during Phase Two. Double routes for buses may be required where possible. Students 3-12 would be required to wear masks on the bus and practice six feet social distancing.

Coker said parents who are able to drop their children off in the morning and pick them up after school are encouraged to do so.

Students in Pre-K—12 would receive a grab-and-go breakfast and will transition to the cafeteria to receive a pickup lunch with the option of eating in the cafeteria, a designated area or returning to the classroom.

Schools would avoid contact and high-risk sports during Phase Two.

PHASE THREE

Phase Three reopening plans for the parish would allow grades Pre-K—12 students to attend school.

Students’ temperatures would be checked daily in the first period homeroom.

Face coverings would be required for grades third through 12 with an exception for people with breathing difficulties defined by the CDC.

Students would receive a grab-and-go breakfast with a pickup lunch to be eaten in the cafeteria, designated area or in the classroom.

Students PreK through fifth grade would remain in static groups while sixth through 12 would follow the six-foot social distancing rule to the greatest extent possible. Face covering would be required throughout the day.

High schools could consider a modified block schedule to reduce the number of transitions.

Buses would allow 75 percent capacity including adults.

During the meeting, School Board member Harold McCoy asked Coker if a child would be provided with a face mask if he or she came to school without one.

Coker told McCoy a mask could be provided to the child if he or she came to school without one.

According to Coker, the Ouachita Parish School System has been in contact with Homeland Security and would be receiving supplies such as masks and other devices for protection.

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