OBERLIN – Allen Parish schools are planning to reopen Aug. 6 with options for students to return to campus or continue learning from home.
“We have fully staffed our schools and will be prepared to handle all students.” Superintendent Kent Reed said. “We look forward to starting our school year on time with all students and will continue to move forward with those plans.”
Reed announced the plans to reopen schools for the 2020-2021 school year to parents in a Facebook video on Wednesday saying parents will have the choice of sending their students to school on the first day or keeping them at home for distance learning.
“I want you the parents to be able to make that decision,” Reed said. “Do you want your kid going to school the first day, or do you feel like you want to wait a little while and keep your child at home for a couple of days, then send them to school? I’m going to promise you that we are going to do everything within our power to make sure that school is safe, but you as a parent have to make that decision. Regardless of what decision you make, we will have a learning option available.”
With the first option, students will be allowed to return to the classroom following guidelines set forth by the state under the Phase 2 reopening plans.
“Guidelines for Phase 2 will allow every classroom to have 24 people in the room - including the teacher and any other adults - so we can have 23-24 students per classroom,” Reed said.
School leaders and administrators are currently working to set up schedules for the new school year.
“If we are still in Phase 2 - and we plan to be in Phase 2, if not Phase 3 - then we are going to start school at 100 percent,” Reed said. “That means all students will be allowed to go to school all days of the week.”
In developing the plan, Reed said the health and well-being of all students and staff were considered. Schools will follow all guidelines set by the state in regards to cleanliness and school safety including social distancing, enhanced sanitation and having fewer students in the classroom and on school buses.
“We have spent a lot of time putting things in place to make sure our kids, faculty and employees are safe,” he said. “We want to protect everyone at school, but we do feel it’s very important that we get back to normal as much as we can.”
The second option will allow parents to keep their children at home for part or all of the school year continuing their education using distance learning from home.
“We know there could be some parents concerned about the safety of their kids and have questions about whether or not they want to send them to school on the first day,” Reed said.
Students selecting the at-home learning option will be provided a Chromebook to continue their school work outside of the classroom using Google Classroom. Chromebooks have been purchased for all students, he said.
“If a student is not in school, they will be at home and they will do the work assigned in those classes and a certified teacher will keep up with it to continue their education until they are ready to return to the school environment,” he said.
Those students will be enrolled in the Allen Parish schools and will be provided everything needed to continue their education to include grades and must meet all education standards, he said. Meals will also be provided to those students.
According to a survey sent out last month about 1,300 of those responding favored having schools reopen with a mix of learning in the classroom and remote learning from home.
Reed said the alternating days where group A would attend school in-person on Mondays and Thursdays and group B on Tuesdays and Fridays was the selected option, but that option is only going to be used if the state has to return to Phase 1.
“The governor says that we will not do that so I’m going to hope that never takes place,” he said. “If we never go back to Phase 1, we will never have to use that option.”
Phase 1 would only allow 9 students and an adult in each classroom, thus reducing class sizes further.
Transportation will likely remain a challenge for schools. If the state is still in Phase 2 when schools reopen, buses will be limited to 50 percent of their capacity presenting logistical and financial challenges for many school districts.
In Phase 3, the capacity would increase to 75 percent.
“We will run buses and transport kids, but we are asking parents who have means to transport students by car to do so to help us alleviate some of the problems with buses,” Reed said.
As for face masks, Reed said schools are still awaiting a decision from the Louisiana Department of Education on whether face masks will be recommended or required for students in grades 3-12.