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Not all school districts adopting ‘parent choice’ quarantine guidelines

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 5:25 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Louisiana Department of Education’s new quarantine option for school systems received mixed reactions.

“I think the parent’s choice right now as long as the parents are responsible,” said Destrehan parent Alison Price.

“To me, it’s a risk and I don’t think it’s worth it,” said New Orleans grandmother Jacquelyn Bierria.

The “parent choice” quarantine option says students who come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 no longer have to quarantine. Under this plan, the parent will decide whether to quarantine the child or allow them to stay in school.

Each of Louisiana’s 69 school districts will have to decide whether to follow it or keep their current protocols.

In a statement given by St. Tammany Parish superintendent, parents and guardians will be notified of the exposure and they will have the option to quarantine their child or allow them to remain in school.

“By Implementing the guidance from the LDOE for the parent choice option, we are allowing our parents and caregivers to make the best choice for their child and family. We look forward to keeping healthy students in school,” said Superintendent Frank Jabbia.

In the New Orleans area, most districts and the Archdiocese of New Orleans are reviewing the policy.

NOLA Public Schools’ superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr. says the district won’t follow it, “[the] decision flies in the face of the data, the science and the sound advice of our health and medical advisors amid the latest surge in this pandemic.”

Jefferson Parish schools will not follow the state’s guidelines, either.

“We are experts in education. We are not experts on the virus. That’s why we’ve continued to work side-by-side with local and state medical experts since before the first case of COVID-19 in Jefferson Parish,” said JP Schools Superintendent Dr. James Gray. “After consulting with medical professionals, we have decided not to implement this option at our schools.”

Plaquemines Parish Schools’ Superintendent Denis Rousselle tells FOX 8 they will follow the CDC guidelines, but he is considering reducing the number of quarantine days, down from 14.

In Tangipahoa, Superintendent Melissa Stilley will implement the rule because she says last school year none of the students who were considered close contact ever tested positive, adding, “the amount of instructional time that students have missed because of close contact will have a detrimental impact on their future educational success.”

“I’m kind of mixed on it,” said Price. “I think right now, after the hurricane, my kids have been out of school so long that being in school is important, but I also want them to be safe. I’m on the fence on that.”

In the last few weeks, she and her family have relocated from Tennessee to Ohio and back to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida damaged their St. Charles home. She says adding this new option over school leaders may be too much for them to bear, “right now with everything we have all gone through, I think we all are exhausted after this hurricane, especially where we’re from in Destrehan,” said Price. “I think putting it on the parents and having them decide is good.”

State Superintendent Cade Brumley in a statement writes, “we can no longer ignore the unintended academic consequences of our students unnecessarily missing school.”

This policy option doesn’t change how school systems will handle positive cases. If a student has symptoms or tests positive, they will still have to isolate until they recover and are no longer infectious.

“This new, common-sense option empowers parents and local communities with the authority to make health-related decisions for their students,” Brumley writes in a statement.

Governor John Bel Edwards slams the decision, in a statement from his office, he says children are the fastest-growing age group for COVID-19, “quarantine is an important tool to slow the spread, especially in classrooms where children are too young to be vaccinated.”

“I think rather the child is showing symptoms or not, maybe one child won’t show the symptoms another one will show the symptoms,” said Bierria. “That’s a big chance to me you’re taking. Being exposed that way.”

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