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Parents and concerned citizens briefly derail Orleans Parish School Board meeting

The group is demanding a virtual option for students this year
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 10:11 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Orleans Parish School Board meeting was derailed for a short time, Thursday night, by a group of concerned parents and community members demanding a virtual option for their children.

Dozens of speakers got up during the public comment section of a resolution the board was taking up providing more COVID guidance for schools and urging LDH to require vaccines for all students once they are fully FDA approved.

The resolution was passed as the public comment section ended and devolved into chants of “shut it down”.

Many parents said they felt like the measures in place demonstrated a blatant disregard for their children’s health and lives, even going as far as to say in-person learning with no virtual option is straight negligence.

Some parents said the current measures in place aren’t being followed as we battle against a strain that’s worse than last year, proving to be more contagious and making younger people sicker.

“Got a call today at 2 p.m. that my daughter had been exposed this morning to somebody that had COVID,” Stacy Howard said. “You let kids back into a classroom with other kids after they’ve been exposed.”

“There’s not a classroom in this city that is big enough to provide this amount of social distancing,” Aretha Lewis said. “There’s not a classroom in the city with sneeze guards in between the students.”

“To ignore the concerns of your constituents sends a dismissive message that you don’t care about our humanity or that of our children,” Dr. Ashonta Wyatt said. “If you don’t care about our humanity, how can we trust you to educate and safeguard our children?”

It was clear everyone there did not feel like the board heard their pleas and their fears that children were not safe in school this year with 28-percent of all new cases in the state being kids and over 3,000 Orleans Parish students and staff quarantined.

NOLA Public Schools says the mitigation measures like masking, distancing, and testing they have in place are keeping the spread down in schools and a third of the 299 cases right now were positive before they stepped onto campus.

However, parents pointed out-- what about the other two-thirds?

“My kid is safest in my home. My home isn’t 11-percent quarantined like my kids’ school. You might feel like the measures might curb some of the spread but it’s literally not safer than distance learning,” Daniel Zimmerman said. “You say we can come back 100-percent with safety measures because we had little or no transmission last year? Wrong. This ignores two major variables. We didn’t have Delta last year and we had virtual learners last year.”

Parents also pointed out other Parishes are implementing virtual learning and said the protocols for when their children are exposed are unsafe for both children and staff because of how secretive the process is.

Speakers brought up the fact that it’s not just children they are talking about either. Once a child is exposed, they risk bringing it home to family, maybe someone who is immunocompromised or forcing a parent to have to quarantine instead of going to work to support them.

Right now, virtual is an option for Orleans Parish students in some cases, like those with medical issues that would get have to get a note from a doctor.

The parents at the meeting are planning further protests.

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