Healthcare leaders, school officials consider options for re-opening in August

Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 10:02 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Pediatricians say quarantine can have a profound impact on children. While it's important kids get back in the classroom, administrators want to ensure it's done safely. It's why many healthcare professionals are working closely with school leaders, to make sure it happens as scheduled.

“I know many of you have questions about next school year. In short, we don’t know exactly what next year will look like but we know it will look different,” Jefferson Parish School Superintendent Cade Brumley Ph.D., said in his recent, end-of-the-year address.

Brumley told families leaders with the district will continue to discuss different scenarios for this fall.

"We can see the school year that includes a blend of on campus and at home learning. We are moving forward the expectation classes will resume on campus August 6 but we will be prepared to start virtually," Brumley explained.

According to medical professionals, schools throughout the the state will likely implement a variation of Brumley's approach.

"We believe the outcome of that is way better than having everyone behind videos, single screen at home, because the social relationships maintained and really amplified through that," said System Chair of Pediatrics at Ochsner Health, William Lennarz, M.D.

Leaders like Lennarz have been working with schools for more than a month to prepare.

"To operate a hospital and a healthcare system in the middle of all this, that is something that, like it or not, we've become pretty expert at," Lennarz said.

Lennarz says it is to assume schools there will never be a student who shows up with COVID-19. He says what is important is mitigating the threat with the least impact on students.

"I think the more they can anticipate what the various scenarios look like, they will become non-events and just algorithms that we've managed by," Lennarz explained.

The state's Strong Start 2020 plan offers school systems guidance on how to prepare. The "planning priorities" require school leaders to consider issues like student mental health, staffing, special education, access to technology and curriculum.

“What teachers and educators are focusing on right now is how do we bring these students back up to their learning potential and where they need to be? We don’t need them focusing on ‘how do I make sure I have the right disinfectant, how do I make sure I know how to take a temperature?’” explained Ochsner Health Education and Community Affairs Director Allison Sharai.

While school leaders work out the details, health leaders urge parents to begin practicing temperature taking and mask wearing to prepare.

Make it fun, make it interactive so that they’re not shocked when they show up to school 13 because that is going to be part of the reality," Sharai said.

In addition to a mix of online and on-site learning, healthcare leaders say students will maintain social distancing, not by a measurement of six feet, but by staying with the same group of kids while teachers switch classes.

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