Calcasieu adjusts school calendar, adds make-up days

Kathleen Hilliard

The Calcasieu Parish School Board met on Tuesday to discuss a variety of concerns over the remainder of the school year. The two closest-watched agenda points was the consideration of grades 7-12 returning to five days of school and the approval of the revised 2020-2021 school calendar.

Many board members brought up the fact that they have students of their own that are falling behind academically since many public schools have had little instructional face-to-face days since March.

“I’m a parent of kids that, right now, are losing education,” expressed Damon Hardesty, district nine, “We’ve been in COVID lockdown since March 13, and I get it—it’s a struggle for everybody, but I also know that our kids are losing an education right now … every parish around us is going to school four days or five days a week. It’s going to be a struggle, but everything’s been a struggle.”

Kelli Cooley, a teacher at Barbe High School, spoke Tuesday on the issues combating teachers with the adjustment back to 5 days.

“Teachers are glad to be back in the classroom … we want to be there for our students,” said Cooley, explaining the sacrifices her and other teachers were making to be there for every student under their guidance, “We have not been ‘off’ since March. I have been planning, training … for the day we return to school. If you go back to five days a week, face-to-face, I cannot be the best teacher I want to be to all my students. It took me eight hours to get through my 141 students that I had face-to-face … it took me five hours Friday just to go in and grade half of my virtual students’ grades.”

At the end of much debate and discussion on the topic, the board ultimately agreed to begin a 5 day weekday starting Nov. 30, giving the board time to come up with transportation and take care of other precautions to allow for a safe return for students.

The board also decided after more discussion and alterations to mend the issue of “woefully short” instructional minutes by taking away additional days that were not included on the 2020-2021 School Calendar. The dates of Dec. 23, Feb. 15, April 6, and the 3-4 of June will be used as instructional days, which eliminated the need to add 30 additional minutes to the school day.

A handful of teachers and teacher representatives spoke on the problematic nature of adding 15 minutes to the beginning and end of the school day, expressing that things such as travelling in from out of town due to displacement and those using daycare services for their own children would be facing these challenges on top of their schedules among other issues.

The decision was made with four board members disagreeing to the amendment. The final amendment stemmed from an earlier amendment made by Eric Tarver, district eight and Mack Dellafosse, district 11 that proposed adding 15 minutes to the end of the day. Their amendment was later tailored under concerns by John Duhon, district 15.

John Duhon, district 15, stated that “We can add days very easily … that would be a lot better than putting minutes at the end of the day. We’re not getting the education we should right now … I want my kids to have a quality education.”CPSB

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