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St. Landry Parish students to return to schools

The St. Landry Parish School Board voted to send students in pre-kindergarten to fourth-grade back to school full-time and fifth through 12th grades in a hybrid schedule.
Students are also allowed the option of continuing to learn virtually.
Grades five to 12 will be hybrid, which will mean two groups alternating weekly with three days in school and two virtually.
The decision was made during a special meeting Friday over Zoom with at least 500 connections monitoring the session.
The public was invited to submit comments and it took more than two hours to listen to about 300 comments with some of them read and others stated by the members of the public.
Superintendent Patrick Jenkins said the instruction in the district’s schools should start by Sept. 28 or sooner. Jenkins said he wants to stagger the start in the grades six and lower.
Students are also allowed the option of continuing to learn virtually.
The vote also followed Gov. John Bel Edwards announcing he was moving the state to Phase 3, which relaxes some anti-virus rules.
The new state rules allow a maximum group size of 50, up from 25. Social distancing is mandated and face covering are required for older students.
Symptom monitoring is mandated as well as cleaning buildings and buses.
The school district has been conducting classes virtually since Sept. 8.
The virtual school has been hampered by technical issues, Jenkins said.
School Board member Mary Ellen Donatto, of Eunice, said the two weeks of virtual learning has been frustrating for some parents and children.
“All of my calls were from our very youngest children’s parents pre-k through second for sure and a few calls about third. Actually none about fourth because at that point our students are capable of manipulating the devices,” she said.
“The frustration level is just amazing,” Donatto said. She suggested giving the youngest students a break from the virtual instructions.
“If a child is crying and sometimes the adults are nearly in tears, if they just call in and say “my child logged in. Can you just please give the credit for that date?’ Because not only is it no working for tiny little children ... and especially without connectivity, the level of frustration is beyond what I think we should put them through,” she said.
Donatto also suggested giving teachers a day or two off to adjust before the in-person classes begin.
Jenkins said the parish infrastructure in many areas was not ready for the school system’s 13,000 students to go online at one time.
But there may be as many as 3,000 students continuing virtual education, which will help the school district with social distancing in its classrooms and buses.
Jenkins initially presented a plan that fifth and sixth graders go to school in-person, but Board member Hazel Sias said they may not be able to achieve social distancing.
The parish has three schools with only fifth and sixth graders — Central Middle in Eunice; and Opelousas Middle and Creswell Middle in Opelousas.
The Board voted to allow those middle school students to be in the hybrid plan that alternates students between in-person classes and virtual sessions.
The school district will provide virtual dual enrollment through LSU Alexandria and Northwestern State University.
Career and technical education will continue with virtual program through Collegiate Technical Academy and in-person classes at the career centers.

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