Schools try to strike balance with COVID

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, January 5, 2022

As public school students return to campuses this week, school leaders are working to balance the Louisiana Department of Health’s recent new guidance regarding COVID-19 and maintaining the normalcy of face to face instruction. Gov. John Bel Edward’s recent instructions regarding the virus were issued as “guidance” and not mandates.

Karl Bruchhaus, Calcasieu Parish School Board superintendent, said “balance” is the key word regarding the guidance, which suggests universal masking indoors and outdoors, social distancing during mealtimes, the suspension of extracurricular activities, no social gatherings like dances or pep rallies, vaccines and boosters for all eligible and testing children prior to the beginning of the spring semester.

“It’s balance for us on COVID. For every person who feels this way about it, there’s another person who feels exactly the opposite.”

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CPSB has determined to encourage that all of the recommendations be followed “but we stopped short of mandating,” Bruchhaus said.  “Ultimately, our stance is we need students face to face with teachers. We’re just trying to keep that happening.”

The district also received feedback from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association regarding the recommendation that extracurriculars be suspended. “LHSAA said they basically weren’t changing their protocols at this point. So, we stuck with that…If we have a team that has to be quarantined, we will quarantine them.”

Similarly, the district will continue other COVID protocols including closing classes if too many students test positive for the virus.

CPSB’s risk management is currently focused full-time on keeping students and faculty safe and healthy, Bruchhaus said. “There’s just a lot of considerations…Keeping up with all of this is massive.”

Some of the recommendations are nearly impossible for district of 27,000 students, he said, as in the case of the suggestion to COVID test all students prior to their return to campus. “Assuming we would have embraced that, how would we have kept up with that? Who would’ve overseen it? And how would we possibly have gotten that done from Friday to Tuesday? So, it’s a balance. We have to be reasonable and rational, do the best we can to keep kids safe and get them in front of their teacher at the same time.”

Similarly, the Lake Charles Charter Schools will be continuing their COVID-19 guidance as previously enforced prior to the updated guidance, Pam Quebedeaux, Lake Charles Charter Schools regional superintendent, said. “Students and staff are required to wear masks as previously mandated by our governing board. We will follow the current CDC guidelines and encourage parents to monitor symptoms of their children. Social distancing and hand sanitizing will be enforced. At this time, extra-curricular activities will continue,” she said.