JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WVUE) - Two days before Jefferson Parish students were due back in the classroom, the district pushed back the start of school.
Jefferson Parish teachers for weeks voiced concern about returning to the classroom. In pushing the start date to August 26, school leaders say they’ll take these couple of weeks to bring COVID-19 testing for employees and teachers online, and better prepare schools and classrooms.
Superintendent Dr. James Gray says the driving reason to push back the start date is so the first day back can coincide with the start of testing in the district.
Teachers applauded the decision as did union leaders, but say they’re not afraid to speak up and advocate for another delay. They teach their students to use their voices, and now teachers are setting the example.
“If you can’t get it together in five months what makes you think you can get it together in two weeks,” said one protester.
The Jefferson Parish superintendent made the announcement to push back the start of school, two days before students were due back. The district will now have two more weeks to prepare. But teachers hope given the delayed start, the district won’t rush to re-open.
“It was not in direct response to what was happened this is a new revelation that came about that in addition to knowing what is been expressed by some of our teachers,” said Gray.
“What is going to be different between August 26 and August 10, we don’t know until we get those answers we’re going to continue to speak out,” said West Jefferson High school teacher, John Guzda.
“I’m thankful not only our concerns for the community constituents concerns didn’t fall on deaf ears,” said board member Simeon Dickerson.
The announcement followed weeks of protest, a contentious and abruptly ended board meeting, and a list of more than 165 questions for the district of unionized teachers’ concerns.
Union president, Kesler Camese-Jones says this delay in school is a direct result of their teachers’ persistence in advocating for themselves and their classrooms.
“Now that they’ve been back additional concerns so we definitely have seen huge engagement from our folks and their concern for the safety of themselves and their students and they want to be prepared to teach their students they want to be in person but they want to be safe,” said Camese-Jones.
Even with the two-week delay, Camese-Jones says it will be a race to address everything of concern in the district. School leaders say they can get it done, while teachers say they’ll accept nothing less.
“The better we can support our teachers better off our students will be,” said Gray.
“If I have to meet with the district every day, I will but we definitely want to sit down keep the dialogue going,” said Camese-Jones.
“We’re very clear and that this is not over and that we are going to continue to fight to make all schools safe for all children,” said Guzda.
The Ochsner-partnered testing will not be available to students when school opens August 26.
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