The Calcasieu Parish School Board voted unanimously to adopt changes to the district's re-opening plans during a special called meeting on Thursday. Plans include a delayed start date of Aug. 24 and a hybrid instructional format for seventh through 12th grade.
"We did not just add 10 days to the year," Karl Bruchhaus, superintendent, said regarding the 10-day delay of the start of school. Instead, the district removed trainings and professional developments for staff and also borrowed two emergency days.
Students will still have 170 instructional days, teachers 182 work days and two remaining emergency days in case of weather or other health related emergencies, Bruchhaus said.
Prior to the vote, Glenda Gay, district three, questioned the permanence of Thursday's decisions. Bruchhaus said, "Based on what we've learned in the last four months, everything is subject to change, every day."
Thursday's meeting also included the adoption of a new "Public Health Emergency" policy which would give Bruchhaus "broad authority to develop, implement and maintain administrative regulations and procedures necessary to protect employees and students from the conditions giving rise to the declared emergency." As written in the agenda, the policy required Bruchhaus to report quarterly to the board any procedural changes or decisions made for the district regarding a public health emergency.
Eric Tarver, district eight, motioned for the policy to be revised requiring Bruchhaus to report such changes monthly, ideally to cut down on the need for last minute Special Called meetings.
"The wording is to keep us in the loop but not make it unmanageable for the staff," Tarver said. The motion passed unanimously.
Later in the meeting Ashley Fletcher, a Frasch Elementary School teacher, spoke in favor of reopening schools in a normal five-day fashion. Noting the importance of social, emotional and mental health support, Fletcher expressed concern over unreported child abuse if children are not in class.
Citing a recent study she said, "Teachers are the leading reporters of suspected abuses…My passion is not only to teach but to protect those innocent lives."
Kara Murphy, Sulphur High School senior class president, proposed "frequent re-evaluations of the circumstances" on a school-by-school basis as an effort to re-open schools fully as soon as possible. Lively discussion, academic challenge for peers and relationship building are important factors in a student's education process, she said.
"None of this can happen behind a computer."
In defense of the district's proposed hybrid schedule for seventh through 12th graders, Bruchhaus cited transportation and classroom size requirements from the state as the basis for its plan.
Potential adjustments to bus routes left some students leaving the school after 6:00 p.m. "That's not acceptable to get a small child home at 7 o'clock," he said.
Adding an extra period to high schools still left some classes with more than the state mandated 25-person capacity. "We just couldn't physically do it," he said. "We don't have the rooms or the teachers."
Bruchhaus said the proposed plan was a compromise of sorts between stakeholders wanting a full return and those wanting a complete closure. "This plan is somewhere in the middle. It doesn't solve every problem," he said.
Plans will be continuously re-evaluated throughout the year. The proposed plan was adopted unanimously.