OBERLIN — The new school year for Allen Parish students will now start eight days later on Aug. 20.

This decision comes after the School Board voted in a special meeting Wednesday to push the start day to Aug. 20 to allow teachers, students, administrators and parents more time to prepare for the school reopening changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote for a later start date could also mean changes in the school calendar. The School Board will consider adopting a revised school calendar at its Aug. 10 meeting.

“There has been a lot of decision throughout different school districts in the state on how to start school and when to get this school year started,” Superintendent Kent Reed said. “We’ve been bouncing back and forth with ideas and plans and we now have an official start date of Thursday, Aug. 20.”

The start date will not change unless something drastically happens, he said.

Parents who do not want their students to attend school in-person have until Aug. 5 to enroll them in an at-home learning program. Enrollment forms are available at individual schools and on school websites.

School Board Member Carolyn Manuel said the new start date will give students and teachers two days to complete paperwork, learn their homerooms and new guidelines that are different from the previous school years, including how to line up and walk the hall before starting the first full week of school.

“It will also give time for the schools to iron out any issues they may be having with back to school because it is going to be very different,” School Board Member Karen Reed said.

School Board Member Gregory Monceaux said delaying the start will also allow for the number of coronavirus cases to go down in the parish. As of Wednesday, there were more than 750 coronavirus cases reported in Allen Parish.

Reed said a lot of time and effort has been put forth in planning for a smooth start to the new school year despite COVID-19.

Students who want to return to school on a five-day basis will be given the opportunity following Board of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines to keep students and faculty safe. Those guidelines include masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitation.

“We are concerned about the safety of our kids, but I am also concerned about the safety of our adults,” Reed said. “Without teachers, support personnel, janitors, cafeteria workers, clerical aides and bus drivers we don’t have school, so we’ve got to protect everyone.”

Students and staff attending school must adhere to a face covering policy.

Under the policy, students in grades 3-12 will be required to wear masks. Masks will be optional for pre-kindergarten through second grade students.

All students riding a school bus must wear a mask regardless of their age.

The School Board will address any issues for students with a diagnosed breathing problem and a doctor’s excuse on an individual basis.

The School Board will provide two masks for every student and employee, according to Supervisor of Child Welfare, Attendance, Transportation and Special Services Kenney Courville. Disposal masks will also be available for emergencies.

Chromebooks will be provided for students whose parents choose to educate them from home using Google Classroom. Parent orientations and videos are planned to help parents learn to use Chromebook and Google Classroom.

Students without internet access at home are strongly encouraged to attend school in-person, Reed said.

However, internet access will be available in school parking lots for those who do not have access to the internet at home. Students will be encouraged to use the school’s WiFi to upload and download their assignments weekly.

Students choosing the athome learning option will be eligible for meals to be picked up at the schools.

Students’ at-home attendance will be based on their participation including completing assignments and meeting deadlines, according Technology Coordinator Kim Rider.

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