• 79°

School systems will determine policies on wearing masks

BATON ROUGE, La. — Governor John Bel Edwards announced today that he is ending the statewide mask mandate for Louisiana schools. After the end of the current academic semester (spring 2021), school systems will determine policies on wearing masks. Louisiana State Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley met with the Governor last week to request the mask mandate be lifted for K-12 students. School systems can begin implementing their own policies following the end of the 2020-2021 school year. New school system face mask policies will take effect starting with summer programs.

“After a statewide effort that served its purpose, I applaud Governor Edwards for now returning this decision to our local communities. They know their children best. Just as they have since the pandemic began, I know school system leaders will continue to work with parish medical experts as they navigate what we all hope is the final chapter of this pandemic. I’m confident we will continue to move closer to offering in-person instruction to every child by the start of next school year.”

Last summer, the Louisiana Department of Education released school reopening guidance and BESE approved minimum health standards. All school systems developed comprehensive plans that operationalized health guidelines and allow for a quick pivot when the presence of the virus changes in their communities. The LDOE provided technical assistance for school systems statewide as they developed reopening plans based on CDC guidance and Louisiana’s phased reopening guidance. Not only did all Louisiana school systems reopen in the fall, but the LDOE’s School Reopening Dashboard shows that 72 percent of Louisiana students are benefitting from daily, in-person instruction.

In addition to school reopening guidance, the Department released specific resources for areas like early childhood, students with disabilities and English Learners. Along with developing virtual instruction guides for educators and families, LDOE provided virtual instruction workshops to over 2,600 educators. This is in addition to the support offered by school systems. The LDOE also held weekly office hours calls and system leader roundtables to keep teachers and leaders updated on the latest developments nationwide and in Louisiana.

Dr. Brumley advocated for K-12 educators and support staff as well as early childcare workers to receive priority access to the vaccine. As priority access was granted, the Department worked with the Louisiana Department of Health to share vaccine guidance with school systems. The Department also partnered with state and federal officials to equip school systems with PPE including 1.2 million face coverings and 83,316 rapid testing kits.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Return to Learn Tracker ranked Louisiana No. 7 in the nation for the highest number of students participating in face-to-face learning. LSU’s 2021 Louisiana Survey found that 77 percent of parents are satisfied with the instruction provided by their child’s school during the pandemic. Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights data shows Louisiana students led the nation for math gains on the Zearn math app from May 2020 to March 2021. Louisiana’s high-quality tutoring strategy was also featured in the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) school reopening guidance. ED used the Louisiana Department of Education’s Accelerate initiative as a national example of how states can support school systems to address unfinished learning.