With COVID-19 cases rising across New Orleans, NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) announced Tuesday (July 21) that students will start the school year with distance learning, with the goal of returning students to in-person learning after Labor Day.
“While returning students to the classroom is absolutely critical, the latest data is unfortunately going in the wrong direction and we just can’t do that at this time,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. “Our top priority has always been the health and well-being of our students, teachers, faculty and staff and given the current levels of community spread, we have made the difficult decision to delay in-person learning at least until after Labor Day. Now, what happens next is up to all of us; that’s why I am asking everyone to mask up, wash your hands, socially distance when possible, and stay home if you are feeling sick. There are over 45,000 students in New Orleans that depend on all of us to do our part.”
The decision to start the year with to distance learning was made based on a review of the City’s health data trends and the advice of medical experts. The District will continue to monitor key indicators including the number of new cases, testing capacity, and indications of community spread and assess data at the end of August to determine if in-person instruction can resume starting after Labor Day.
The decision was made with the support of New Orleans Mayor aLaToya Cantrell.
“This is a difficult decision, yet not so difficult considering the existing conditions in our city,” said Mayor Cantrell. “These decisions will have a significant, cascading effect on our city because our children won’t be able to attend school with direct instruction. Prior to the 4th of July, I pleaded to the community that if we wanted our children to return to school, in the environment that they are used to and that they need to thrive, that it depended on the actions of adults. We need to turn this around and we can do it, but let’s make sure that our children remain our top priority and that we don’t lose them in the midst of distanced learning.”
“Our level of community transmission is too high to support immediate return to in-person school,” said City Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno. “And while we have seen that kids are not as susceptible to severe illness, we do know that they can transmit the virus to those who are. I want to be clear: in an ideal world, we all agree that the best place for kids to be is in the classroom. So let this be a motivator for all of us. Every single thing each and every one of us does in the next few weeks should be with the goal of supporting the children of New Orleans.”
While students will start learning remotely this year, school buildings will remain open so that staff may access the building to support distance learning and offer critical services and supports to families as needed, such as school meals, while following the established health and safety protocols.
“While this is a very tough decision, it is the right one that we must make at this time for the health and safety of our students, teachers, families and community. As we move forward, we can’t do this alone,” said Board President Ethan Ashley. “We need the help of our entire community to take the necessary precautions and mask up. The actions that we take today, have a direct impact on what our children can do in the future.”
Throughout the month of August, NOLA-PS will continue to host weekly briefings alongside public health advisors, to provide regular updates on a return to in-person learning and steps the District is taking to ensure students and teachers are supported throughout this time.