Eunice High School held its 2020-21 school year registration on campus on Monday through Wednesday. Masks were worn by students, parents and faculty members. The front door entrance at Eunice High had a temperature check. Principal Mitch Fontenot said, “It appears that everything, registration, is going smoothly. Students are following the registration process.” Eunice High English IV teacher Suzanne Synborski, left, talks with Abram Ablang, a senior. In back of Synborski is Gabriel Bear, a senior at Eunice High. (Photo by Myra Miller)
St. Landry Parish school opening moved to Sept. 8
St. Landry Parish public schools will open on Sept. 8 as the school system adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opening date was approved by a unanimous vote during a special School Board meeting Monday.
Schools originally were scheduled to open on Aug. 12.
In July, the Board voted unanimously to open school virtually on Aug. 20 to shield students and employees from the virus surging in the state.
Monday’s meeting was held over Zoom with a maximum audience of 300. About 40 minutes of the three hour meeting included a reading of comments from the public.
Board member Joyce Haynes made the motion for a Sept. 8 start date. She had proposed that post Labor Day start in July.
The later start date gives the school system a chance to see if the virus situation changes, she said.
Board member Albert Hayes Jr. said, “I personally believe this vote will give us an opportunity for a dress rehearsal.” Teachers need training to conduct virtual school.
“We need to start moving right now before we open virtually to see what it is going to look like,” he said.
Superintendent Patrick Jenkins said he would have a draft calendar ready for today’s regular School Board meeting, which will be conducted on Zoom.
The Board wrestled with another agenda item that stated: “Discussion and any necessary action regarding the format (entirely virtual setting or hybrid setting) of the school system’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.”
“I believe that item is out of order because the motion for it to be virtual has already passed,” she said about the vote on July 15 to open school virtually.
Donnie Perron, Board president, said circumstances have changed since the July vote. The change is there are not enough Chromebooks for every student.
Board member Josh Boudreaux said a letter from the Board’s attorney stated a plan is needed that will work for every child.
“My concern is we are trying to run this school system based on hope. Now, I hope the computers come in, but we cannot run a business this way. Hope is not an option. We have legal responsibilities that we must provide to every child,” he said.
Boudreaux urged the Board to “come up with a Plan B.”
Haynes moved that the agenda item be tabled with a second from Board member Milton Ambres.
“Once we voted virtual all we get to hear is there are no Chromebooks. In your hybrid plan you had a day of virtual. So, you are not ready for any of those plans. You could talk about them all you want. We keep talking about them, but no one is showing us plans about anything,” Haynes said.
“We’ve already voted for the how. The discussions can go on for seven hours. We don’t mind. But we’ve told you we want our students and our staff to be safe. That’s why we voted for virtual There are other systems in Louisiana doing virtual. There are whole states. Los Angeles does virtual. We speak to teachers all over the country. They are doing virtual,” she said.
The school system has yet to receive 3,500 Chromebooks that would complete its order of 6,000 made in April. The Chromebooks may arrive at the end of August or the beginning of September, but there have been at least four delivery delays.
Board member Mary Ellen Donatto said, “I don’t want the public to misunderstand because this district has a habit of ending school sometimes in the middle of May for children and then sending them back to school at the beginning of August on a blazing hot bus.”
Donatto questioned the agenda item as reading like a retreat from the virtual school,
Board attorney Courtney Joiner said the item was intentionally left open for action because of open meetings law requirements.
Hayes noted his 30 years as an educator and said, “This is a school system, not a plantation” in reference to sending students and employees into a dangerous environment.
Boudreaux said Jenkins was denied an opportunity to explain school plans in the July meetings.
Jenkins said he was not ready to make a presentation on what a virtual day will look like, but may have it ready for today’s meeting.
Joiner said there is no Board action necessary, but Jenkins and his staff should prepare for the possible shortage of Chromebooks. “He has a duty to address this situation.”
The Board voted 9-3 to table the agenda item. Voting to table were Anthony Standberry, Haynes, Ambres, Raymond Cassimere, Denise Rose, Hazel Sias, Myron Guillory, Hayes and Donatto.
Voting against tabling the item were Boudreaux, Kyle Boss and Randy Wagley.
Perron, who does not vote as president unless there is tie, said he would have voted against tabling the issue.