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Louisiana Schools to Embrace Hybrid Education in August

Lafayette Parish students will return to school using a hybrid in-person and online learning model while the district warns parents to be prepared for sudden plan changes as COVID-19 cases in the region continue to rise.

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(TNS) — Lafayette Parish students in Louisiana will return to school using a hybrid in-person and online learning model while the district warns parents to be prepared for sudden plan changes as COVID-19 cases in the region continue to rise.

The start of school was pushed back from Aug. 13 to Aug. 17 to allow teachers more time “to be trained, practice safety protocols and to prepare for an effective start to the 2020-2021 school year,” the district plan said.

The plan was announced as the parish and state wrangle with rising COVID-19 case numbers and Acadiana sees rising average daily caseloads. In July, the Acadiana region has averaged more than 350 new cases daily.

“Having teachers and students return to a safe and engaging learning environment is our ultimate goal. Please join us in doing your part in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Superintendent Irma Trosclair said in a signed digital letter to families.

The Phase 2 plan will remain in place until the first nine weeks period ends on Oct. 13, a Lafayette Parish School System release said. The Phase 2 plan will have students split into A and B groups and alternate between in-school attendance and virtual learning each day, with the cohorts rotating who attends in-person classes each Friday.

Regardless of which learning set-up students are in, attendance will be taken, and grades will be counted beginning in August, the release said. Ensuring equity for students while learning virtually is a concern and LPSS said it was using roughly $1.5 million in CARES Act funding to purchase student devices to ensure each student has a computer when the school year starts.

The cohort groups will be determined by the student’s home address. Odd-numbered addresses will be in the A group and even-numbered addresses will be in the B group. Students in apartment complexes will be assigned based on their unit number, rather than street address, and students whose home or apartment only includes letters will be assigned based on that letter’s corresponding place in the alphabet, ex: A equals 1.

At school, pre-K through fifth grade students will remain in static groups, with some exceptions, while sixth through 12th grade students will be allowed to rotate between classes with safety precautions.

Cohorts are needed to reduce the school populations, as group sizes are limited to 25 individuals, including adults and bus capacity is limited to 50% or 36 students, the district said. Instructional time and arrival and dismissal times will be adjusted to accommodate bus needs.

Meal service will operate normally, and students will eat in their classrooms and other designated areas, rather than in larger congregant settings. Students will be given a shelf-stable meal to take home for the following virtual learning day, the 20-21 Learn Lafayette reopening plan said.

While on campus, third grade through 12th grade students will be required to wear masks or face coverings and it’s also recommended pre-K through second grade students wear masks. Masks should be considered part of the school uniform and subject to school uniform rules around obscene, discriminatory or inflammatory clothing, the plan said.

Student temperatures will be taken during first period and students will be required to wash or sanitize their hands when they enter school, at two-hour intervals, before and after eating, before and after using outdoor play equipment, and when they leave school. Students will be allowed to bring their own hand sanitizer to school.

“These plans were developed to be student-centered and also ensure our educators are well equipped to do what they do best: engaging with our students and inspiring a commitment to lifelong learning, in a safe manner,” Trosclair said in a statement.

Students will also have a fully virtual learning option through the Lafayette Online Academy. Applications for the academy will close Aug. 3, so the district can assess staffing needs for the program, the district plan said. Students who begin the school year in the academy must stay in the program for the semester but may switch to their base school in January 2021.

Magnet academy students who enroll in the LOA will maintain their academy spot for the 2020-2021 school year, while immersion students who opt into the online program may be required to take a language placement exam when returning to their immersion program, the release said.

The district warned parents they should have contingency plans for grab-and-go meal pickups, internet service, childcare and other factors if the district must switch to 100% online learning suddenly. Earlier this week, LPSS promoted low-cost internet services through partnerships with Love Our Schools and One Acadiana.

Service plans include options from AT&T, Cox and LUS Fiber, a flier said. Smart buses and Wi-Fi boosters will be available on campuses to help with student connectivity. The district previously said it was also working to purchase Wi-Fi hot spots for students in need using CARES Act dollars.

“Plans are fluid and may evolve as we receive guidance from the Louisiana Department of Education, Louisiana Department of Health, and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association,” Trosclair said in a statement.

©2020 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.