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St. Landry may reboot on virtual start (school plan pdf)

The St. Landry Parish School Board may do a reboot on its plan to start school on Aug. 20 and do so virtually.
At least that seemed to be direction the Board was being steered by public comments and doubts among its members during more than six hours of meeting Tuesday.
The Board met in special session, but as a committee so its official action would have be taken at the Aug. 6 Board meeting.
Earlier this month the School Board voted unanimously to start its schools on Aug. 20 and do so virtually. The decision was based on keeping students and employees safe from the coronavirus.
At Tuesday’s meeting conducted over Zoom, Board members had their own questions and the public joined with inquiries about the working of a virtual school.
Perhaps the tipping point for the Board was hearing that 3,500 Chromebooks that were once going to be delivered in June are now slated for arrival in late August or September.
Bryon Wimberly, computer center supervisor, said some summer school students used their own devices. As a result, the school system staff had to support 15 different devices.
Board member Randy Wagley said the school system is trying to do something destined to fail with the virtual opening given the shortage of computers.
Additionally, Wagley noted there is confusion about the school system offering its Virtual Academy which is separate from the virtual school.
Board member Albert Hayes Jr. said he is worried about the Aug. 20 start and suggested the school system return to a plan to start after Labor Day.
Hayes also said the school system would benefit by seeing how in-person schooling works by watching schools that are starting as early as next week.
St. Landry Parish is the only school system planning to open the school year with virtual classes.
Board member Donnie Perron echoed a concern by many parents who said they have a conflict with leaving their children home to sit in front of computer screen for classes and having to go to work.
“The vast majority want to go back to school,” he said.
Perron said he is concerned that every other school system in the state is starting with a mix of in-person and online classes or a return to a normal schedule.
In a text message Wednesday morning, Board member Mary Ellen Donatto, who is chairwoman of the Academic Committee, said there are discussions about the Board holding a retreat on the back-to-school issue.

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