The Louisiana Department of Education released guidelines and standards on Thursday regarding the way in which schools can safely re-open in August. The development of the guidance is a partnership between the Louisiana Department of Health, the Resilient Louisiana Commission and the Louisiana Department of Education, Cade Brumley, state superintendent said.

"We are not experts in this virus itself," he said of the department. "We are more experts in how to operationalize the guidance that has been given to us from the LDH."

The 20-page document outlining re-opening includes guidelines that must be followed and recommended best practices for implementation. "All of the guidelines are based on the various phases that our state could be in," Brumley said.

The guidelines include a fluid model of operations but regardless of the phase, regular hand washing, face coverings and social distancing are required next school year. Only students in third grade or above will be required to wear a mask.

Group sizes on campuses will be limited to 10 people including adults in phase one, 25 including adults in phase two and 50 including adults in phase three. Buses will operate at limited capacity also depending on the phase: 25 percent capacity during phase one, 50 percent during phase two and 75 percent during phase three.

"We are hopeful by August we will be in phase three which is 75 percent," Brumley said. "Those are some of the logistical issues that local districts are working through."

Local decision making will play a large role in how districts re-open. Brumley said Thursday's release is meant to "guide local decisions for our school leaders who know what works best in their communities."

When it comes to making decisions about campus closures due to an outbreak or how to enforce mask wearing, Brumley said individual school systems and/or regional public health officials will be responsible.

The Calcasieu Parish School Board released a statement regarding the LDOE's guidance stating that it understands the importance of an in-person educational setting. "While school days may look a little different as we implement recommended safety guidelines, our current plans are being formulated around having our students back on our campuses for next school year," Holly Holland, spokeswoman for the district, said.

Virtual educational options will also be available for families who are not comfortable with sending their children to the campus. Hopeful for an August return, Holland said the district would release additional details in the coming weeks regarding the 2020-2021 school year.

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