METAIRIE, La. — The Jefferson Parish Federation of Teachers says that a large portion of their members are concerned about returning to in-person teaching in two weeks, especially given the rise in cases in the State of Louisiana and the troubling numbers in Jefferson Parish, which leads the state in confirmed cases.
They say their union wants the proposed date of August 12 to be pushed back until the safety of students and staff can be assured.
In a letter to the Jefferson Parish School Board, the federation says that a significantly large portion of JP public school families has opted for the distance learning option, showing they are skittish about an in-person return as well.
The teachers' union said that learning in person should not take place until four conditions are met.
• There is a significant decrease in cases statewide and more specifically, in Jefferson Parish;
• There has been a continuous decline in new cases for a period of at least fourteen days;
• The Department of Health has certified that every Jefferson Parish Public School worksite exceeds the minimum requirements as set forth by BESE and;
• The Department of Environmental Quality has tested the air filtration system in each Jefferson Parish Public School worksite to ensure maximum protection for students and employees.
In addition, the school said it counted 165 questions that teachers would like answered about safety. They are listed below.
Bus/Transportation; Arrival and Departures
1. Are bus drivers taking temperatures?
2. If a child has a fever of over 100.4 does the bus driver still put them on the bus? If so, that can potentially expose everyone on the bus. If the student remains on the bus, how will the school district provide for the safety of the other students? If the student is removed from the bus, how will the school district protect the safety of that student by verifying that the student actually returned home?
3. If buses are making extra trips, how does this impact instructional minutes? Will instruction start later due to arrival times and allowing the students to eat breakfast?
4. When the bus arrives at school in the morning and the bus driver opens the bus door for students to unload, how will the school make certain that students comply with social distancing and face covering requirements?
5. If other buses arrive at the same time, and other students arrive at the same time, how is the school going to make certain that all students comply with social distancing and face covering requirements? If teachers are assigned to duty, who will supervise students as they enter classrooms?
6. When the bus departs in the afternoon, how is the rule governing social distancing and face covering going to be implemented and enforced?
7. How much extra time will be needed daily for buses arriving and departing school and with extra routes? Will this interfere with instructional minute requirements?
8. How will it be decided if a bus has to make two or even three trips to the same neighborhood, who decides what “trip” they are in. Will kindergarten students be dropped off while their older siblings are on a different “trip.” If students are separated by trips what safety measures have been put in place to ensure siblings are kept together?
9. For car riders; will students' temperatures be taken inside the car to ensure the parent can take them home if their temperature is above 100.4?
10. What happens if a parent drives away and lets the child out down the street and the student “walks to school” and still has the elevated temperature? Will they be allowed in school?
11. How much extra time is going to be needed to screen carpool lines every morning?
12. Who will ensure social distancing for students that are dropped off shortly before the bell rings waiting to enter school?
13. Will a child who isn’t wearing a face covering be allowed to board the bus? If so, who/how will the school district protect the safety of the other students, and that student? Or will the bus driver have extra face coverings to distribute?
14. If a child comes to school without a face covering, how will the school district protect the safety of other students to make certain they are not exposed to that child, and what consequences are imposed on that student?
15. The district says to utilize multiple points of entry. That goes against the single-point of entry for campus safety. Isn’t the school district sacrificing one point of safety to ensure another? Temperature Checks
16. Who takes the students' temperature?
17. Where will the students’ temperature be taken? Where do they wait? If there’s a line of students waiting to enter the building, who will make certain that social distancing and masking requirements are followed, and make certain that students are orderly? The line could get very lengthy…who monitors?
18. If the students line up outside, who will protect them from rain and extreme heat or cold?
19. Who will enforce the 100.4 temperature screenings and inform the parent their child cannot attend school with that temperature or needs to be picked up from school?
20. What happens when a student refuses to have their temperature taken? What if the student is special ed?
21. How long is the process of taking student temperatures expected to take each day? Doesn’t this impact instructional minute requirements?
22. If waiting outside in August, September, October, March, April, and May heat, how does one know if their temperature is high because they were standing in the heat, or that they are really ill? How much time passes before they are checked again and where do they wait?
23. What happens when no one answers or the parent refuses to pick up the child because “he/she was fine when they left!”
24. If one student is 100.4 or above, what is done with the siblings or students who share the same address? Are they placed with that child and have to leave? If that child has to be fever free for 24 hours, does it hold true for all the siblings or other students living at the same address?
25. If a child’s sibling is in the system, is the siblings’ school notified of the high temperature and are those siblings or others living at the same address pulled out of class and need to be picked up for fear of having the virus?
26. If there are 800 students at a school and one thermometer for every 100 students, where does the manpower to conduct the temperature screenings in a safe, socially distant, and timely manner?
27. The district suggested extended homeroom time to allow for breakfast, but isn't this cutting into instructional time?
28. It requires more time than the school day allows, will teachers and school employees be paid for the extra time?
29. In the past we were told to keep our classroom doors closed for safety, but now we are hearing that we should keep them open for circulation for virus purposes. Safety breaches can occur during a pandemic. How is the school district keeping students and staff safe from both risks?
30. Do all classrooms allow for proper safe distancing? How are guidelines going to be handled for social distancing? There are guidelines for churches, restaurants, hair salons, etc. Once you add teachers, paras, custodial, cafeteria, office staff, and hundreds of students in a school how do the guidelines apply?
31. Is every student going to be given a Chromebook? If not, who is disinfecting classroom computers in between uses?
32. Who makes certain that the Chromebooks were disinfected as they were supposed to be? Will there be a sheet adjacent to each Chromebook, for the employee to verify that it was cleaned at a certain time? If not, how does the school district know for certain that students’ safety was protected?
33. Circulating air is not easy when not all classrooms have windows, windows that open or air conditioning systems that function at full capacity. How is this protecting the safety of students and employees?
34. Will I be provided a plexiglass shield on my desk for when I talk/counsel students?
35. Are workstations/centers no longer allowed since it will require disinfection after every rotation? If workstations/centers are allowed, who disinfects them, and who monitors to make certain that they were in fact disinfected? Will there be a verification sheet on the workstation/center, to be signed by the person who does the cleaning? If not, how does the school district verify that students’ safety has been protected?
36. If teachers are going to be required to do the disinfecting, how will they meet instructional minute requirements?
37. With sanitizing and safety habits a top priority, all students should have their own supplies. Will sharing be prohibited? How is the district/school going to handle students that do not bring any supplies to school? Who will provide the supplies?
38. School employees are trained in CPI (restraint) techniques. Those techniques require the employee to be in close physical contact with students. How is the school district protecting the safety of students and employees in those situations? When deescalating a student who requires CPI hold so they do not hurt themselves or others, how can I do so without risking contact with a student. Educators have been pushed, punched, spit on, bitten, kicked, shoved, etc. What is being done to protect the safety of school employees in a pandemic where social distancing is required? Is it really prudent to open schools under the circumstances that currently exist?
39. And, even worse, if the student is exempt from wearing a face covering, or if the face covering slips off while a school employee appropriately uses CPI, how is the school district protecting students and employees?
40. What resources are being provided to make sure that we have a safe and clean classroom daily? At many schools, classrooms aren’t cleaned every week much less every day. How is the school is going to make certain that desks are cleaned “regularly throughout the day?”
41. What happens when a student takes off their face covering during class and interferes with instruction? What is the protocol? And how is the school district protecting other students, and employees when that occurs?
42. Will my classroom be disinfected/cleaned more than once a day? If my class goes to PE/Library, will it be cleaned when students leave and before they return?
43. Will the district be getting rid of tables in lower elementary school (PreK-1) and replacing them with individual desks?
44. If you can’t eat in the cafeteria because sitting at a table poses a risk, how can it happen in a classroom?
45. What is the safety protocol for itinerant teachers? We see many students at many different schools. How is the school district protecting the safety of those students when the teacher travels from school to school and being with students from different schools each day? How is the school district protecting teachers in those situations?
46. Do students take books home or leave them all at school? The virus can live on hard surfaces for 24-hours, will that be transporting the virus to school? How is this protecting student safety?
47. Will the rubric for observations be changed to warrant the “new normal” we are teaching in?
48. Will the district provide us with a rubric before the first cycle of observations are to take place?
49. If students are supposed to keep all their supplies and learning materials separate from others, is the district providing personal bins, cubbies, or lockers so students can isolate their belongings. This is very important in lower elementary grades because many do not understand boundaries.
50. How do pre-k through 1st graders social distance walking six feet apart? Who will monitor?
51. When will teachers have time to teach in between being safety enforcers and cleaning up after students if they are required to do so?
52. Will school employees be required to change diapers? How is this protecting the safety of students and employees?
53. How is the school district protecting the safety of students and employees if some sped students are exempt from wearing face coverings?
54. The district's plan mentions social distancing but nothing specific. What exactly are the proper guidelines?
55. Given that asymptomatic students can transmit the virus, how is the school district protecting students and employees if some students are exempt from face covering requirements?
56. How are we supposed to implement social distance requirements inside the SPED classroom when so many students have accommodations that require or allow close contact?
Washing Hands: Bathrooms and hand sanitizer issues
57. Where do students wash their hands as they enter and exit the school? It was stated that they will be in each school, but many schools still do not have them installed and staff is due to report in a few days.
58. Did the school system purchase extra handwashing stations to accommodate students the number of students at each school, particularly when they arrive and before they leave?
59. Have all sinks in the parish been repaired? Many have been broken and hanging off the wall for years, and hand washing with warm water is the safest way to prevent the virus
60. Will bathrooms now have warm water to safely wash hands?
61. Who ensures that students – particularly PreK through 1st graders - properly wash their hands? Are there handwashing stations provided in the hall? Teachers and Paras do not go into the students’ restrooms with students present.
62. How is the school district protecting the safety of students and employees if students aren’t monitored to make certain that they are washing their hands at all, much less for 20 seconds?
63. How much time is allowed out of instructional time to be dedicated to supervised handwashing in the lower grades?
64. Students are required to wash their hands a minimum of 9 times a day (upon entering the school, before they eat breakfast, after they eat breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, before PE, after PE, scheduled restroom breaks, and exiting campus). The Rule states that water and soap washing is preferred. How will that be carried out and at the same time implementing social distancing requirements and at the same time monitoring student behavior?
65. How often are the restrooms going to be cleaned and disinfected each day? If custodians perform that function, how will they have time to clean other high contact surfaces in the school?
66. Will soap and paper towels now be required in the student and adult bathrooms or will students have to bring their own, as many times there is no soap, paper towels or toilet paper in the restrooms because some administrators say, “I’m not buying it, it’s not coming out of my budget!”
67. The district has cut 8-hour employees and reduced them to 4-hours. Isn’t this going to create cleaning deficiencies considering the Start Strong Plan calls for “increased cleaning and disinfecting.”
68. What types of cleaning and disinfecting formulas are going to be used? Some students have asthma and allergies and the harsh chemicals can make breathing difficult and irritate students' eyes making them more inclined to rub their eyes and have their fingers touching their faces.
69. Are the custodians going to be trained on how to clean and properly disinfect high-touch surface areas?
70. Do classrooms have biohazard receptacles in place in the event a student has a nosebleed, sneezes, or vomits in their mask?
71. Have custodians been trained on how to handle biohazard material?
72. Do all bathrooms have a receptacle with a lid on it? Cafeteria/Eating in
73. Who disinfects surfaces prior to students eating in their classrooms, and after they eat?
74. Where do students place their mask while eating breakfast and/or lunch? Leaving it on the table is not sanitary and exposes others to the virus.
75. When students are finished eating breakfast and lunch inside their classroom, who comes in and disinfects that classroom since masks were removed and hands were in students' mouths and touching their desks?
76. Breakfast used to be in the classroom years ago and in some schools, it was put back into the cafeteria due to roaches, rodents, and filth. What is JP Schools doing to ensure this does not happen again?
77. Will all classrooms have receptacles with a lid for Kleenex, paper towels and wipes?
78. Is there enough custodial staff at school sites to maintain cleansing and disinfecting the cafeteria between each class picking up their lunch as well as clean and disinfect classrooms after eating breakfast and lunch all at the same time? Prior to the pandemic, many of these positions were eliminated or reduced
79. Do students still grab their milk themselves? This means many hands grabbing into the milk cooler and touching cartons other kids could grab. It’s similar to why students do not share supplies: too many hands equal too many chances to spread the virus.
80. Am I expected to stay with my students as they eat their lunch? When do I get my lunch? My contract says I am entitled to a 30-minute duty free lunch. Are we going to be expected to supervise students to monitor their behavior, social distancing, and cleaning and at the same time eat our lunch every day?
81. What is the district's plan to ensure enough class coverage for teachers and paraeducators so they can have their lunch? Who will monitor my students while I eat?
82. What is the criteria to be sent the sick room? Who will enforce this?
83. Who monitors the sick room? How will their safety be protected? It has been stated that employees will be written up if they refuse to risk their safety and monitor the isolation (“sick”) room.
84. Some Covid-19 symptoms are similar to other ailments (vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, headache, sore throat). If a student who is ill from something other than COVID-19 is placed in the sick room with a student with COVID-19, you are exposing a student to a virus they do not have and can potentially catch and bring home to their family infecting others.
85. What happens when no one comes to pick up the student from school? Are they allowed to go home on the bus? How will that affect the requirements limiting the number of students on a bus? The entire reason for separating them is not to contaminate others, but how does that student get home? The school bus would not be safe for others in this case.
86. My principal mentioned that we would have to take planning time to sit in the sick room to monitor students on a rotating basis. I do not feel safe watching sick students and planning time is for just that, planning lessons. I do not want to run the risk of bringing the illness into my house and exposing my family. Additionally, planning time is also a part of our contract.
87. Will I get Hazard Pay if I sit in the sick room?
88. If I catch the virus from the sick room, are my days excused?
89. Will I have to quarantine if the student in the sick room has COVID-19?
90. Will I have to use my sick days while quarantining because I caught the virus from monitoring the sick room?
91. My principal told us the student that is sick will sit in view of the school secretary. So, the sick room is the front office where everyone (teachers, para educators, cafeteria, custodial, students, parents, delivery drivers) pass though at some point in the day? How is the school district protecting their safety?
92. Wouldn’t putting employees in the sick room open the district up to lawsuits if you mandate that employees monitor the sick room and they become ill or you are forcing them in harm's way?
PPE and Cleaning
93. My school never had soap in the bathroom for students or employees. How is this time around going to be different? If we don’t have soap, isn’t that going to compromise student safety?
94. Does the school provide students with face coverings?
95. What is the backup plan when the school and systems run out of supplies? We are one of thousands of school districts trying to obtain the same supplies as everyone else.
96. What supplies will be given to us to keep in our room?
97. How will the district and school ensure cleaning and disinfecting will be increased?
98. Are the details for cleaning and disinfecting outlined for staff?
99. Who or how will the school sanitation be documented for accountability?
100.Who verifies that high touch surfaces are cleaned properly throughout the school day? Will there be a signature sheet to provide proof?
101.Our rooms are not the most sanitary on a normal day. There is mold in some AC vents, and many of our sinks have been broken for two years or more. How will these issues be addressed with a reduced custodial staff and budget?
102.Who will supply the large amount of sanitation and PPE supplies we will need?
103.If all these cleaning supplies are really going to be available, why does it take a pandemic for things to be cleaned properly and stocked?
104.The pupil teacher ratio for PE is 1:40. Now class sizes are smaller. Did the district hire more staff?
105. Some schools have gyms or PE rooms. Gyms and PE rooms need an actual partition dividing the groups. Will that be provided?
106. Do kids have to wear their masks outside in 103-degree heat index?
107. Will time be built into the school schedule to allow PE equipment to be cleaned and disinfected between classes?
108. What happens when a student refuses to wear his/her face covering?
109.Who enforces face covering requirements?
110. Students are not required to wear a face covering while eating. If they eat in class, and desks are not 6 feet apart, how is that protecting the safety of students and staff?
111. What happens when a student soils their mask? Will the office have an additional supply for those inevitable situations?
112.How will teacher absences be handled? What is the plan? Does the school district have a sufficient number of substitutes lined up, considering that teachers may be absent while being tested for COVID-19 and may test positive and be absent for a considerable period of time?
113.Will substitutes be allowed on campus?
114.Who have they been around and will they be tested prior to coming to campus?
115. When there are no substitutes, will classes be split? If so, then that will be too many students in a class.
116. Can I refuse to substitute because I need my own planning to plan for instruction? If I can’t refuse, then I will never get to effectively plan for my students' instruction and I also run the risk of being exposed to more students when to goal is to maintain static groups.
117. Has the district thought about employing non-certified teachers to be an assigned as school substitutes?
118.What are the instances that hand sanitizer may be substituted for soap?
119.My principal told me I had to provide my own hand sanitizer for my classroom. Is that going to be required?
120.Will I be reimbursed for the cleaning supplies I buy to keep my room clean, disinfected and safe?
121.What safety measures will be taken when signing in, in the morning? You cannot have the employees all using the same pen to sign in.
122.Will grace be granted due to the number of people signing in and not everyone can be in the office?
123.Has the district thought about contactless sign in?
124.Schools run off data: test data, attendance data, racial, nationality and gender data. Why is the district ignoring that the cases are rising and it isn’t safe to have in person learning yet?
125.What is the number of infected students or staff members that would compose a cluster to require a class or school closure?
126.With water fountains out of order, who will supply water for students who do not bring in their own water bottle?
127.Is it safe for students to bring water bottles, when they leave them lying around and someone must touch them to dispose of them?
128.What is the protocol if a parent refuses or is unable to pick up a student?
129.Will the district’s discipline plans be adjusted for unruly students who refuse to social distance or follow procedures that may endanger themselves or others?
130.When students get into fights, what are school employees expected to do without compromising social distance requirements?
131.Are teachers responsible for planning virtual and in-person learning?
132.What protocol will be followed if a student reports that an immediate family member has COVID-19?
133.Has the district partnered with anyone for rapid COVID-19 tests in order to get us back to work as soon as possible?
134.We don’t have soap at our school and our students wipe their hands on their clothes. How is bathroom hand washing every two hours going to take place with no supplies?
135.What is the safety protocol for itinerant staff?
136.Even as schools attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the school still must comply with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. This means that if school leaders become aware that a student has contracted the virus, they may not reveal the infected student’s identifiable information. They school may give public notice that a student in the school community is infected but may not offer any information that would allow someone to identify that individual. What protocol will the school district follow?
137.Who will pay for the cost of COVID testing if the school directs an employee to be tested?
138.If a student has a note exempting him/her from wearing a mask, can I refuse to teach them?
139.With the virus running rampant, will we be getting any additional sick days?
140.What is the plan for when a parent chooses to jump parish lines and enroll their children in a JPPS? If we are the only parish in the area that is offering face to face instruction, what is JPPS’s plan to deal with the additional enrollment of students? Will you still be able to keep the ratio 1:24?
141.In order to limit the amount of exposure to staff and employees will all PD’s be conducted virtually?
142.Has the school district established contact tracing if a student tests positive for COVID-19?
143.There are studies that establish that children can spread COVID-19. Is it prudent to open schools at this time?
144.Students invariably get into fights, thus breaking rules that prohibit them from fighting. Students get out of their seats, become unruly, and they talk in class, violating teachers’ instructions. Why would the school district believe that all students will dutifully wear their face coverings at all times, and will not at times congregate together socially, within 6 feet of each other? Students will at times not be compliant, thus exposing everyone. How is that protecting the safety of students and employees?
145.If a student tests positive for COVID-19, will the school district require the entire class, or anyone in the class, or the teacher, to quarantine? It sounds like the school district is saying let’s put everything into motion for a few weeks and wait for people to get sick and possibly die before we close schools.
146.Strong Start Jefferson 2020 states, “Students will wash or sanitize hands upon arrival at school, at least every two hours, before and after eating, before and after using outdoor play equipment, and before exiting school. Hand sanitizer may be used in place of handwashing in some instances. That leads us to conclude that the preferred method is soap and water for most occasions. Is that correct?
147.Are teachers supposed to devise handwashing schedules? Given that there are multiple students in multiple classrooms with only a limited number of washbasins, isn’t it likely that students will be lined up in hallways throughout the day?
148.Who will monitor them to make certain that they maintain 6 feet social distance while they wait and when they are in the bathroom?
149.Won’t this defeat the purpose of static groups?
150.Who will monitor bathrooms to make certain that students are actually washing their hands? That’s basic, but in a pandemic, it’s absolutely required, without exception. How is the school district truly protecting the safety of students and employees without full and complete monitoring and enforcement?
151.Who disinfects the bathrooms between student groups?
152.Won’t this result in an immense interruption of classroom instruction?
153.By opening schools, how on the one hand is the school district truly protecting the safety or students and employees and on the other hand knowingly exposing students and employees to the virus? How is the school district protecting students and employees when lapses in 100% implementation and enforcement are inevitable?
154.Will schools have an adequate supply of cleaning supplies? At one school, teachers were told that there wasn’t enough money for hand sanitizer and they must bring a gallon of sanitizer. Will that be required?
155.Where will students eat lunch? Who will clean classrooms after students eat? How is the school district protecting the safety or students and employees if students are eating without face coverings in a classroom?
156.Who will clean desks after students eat? Who is supposed to clean up when a student spills their entire drink on the floor of the classroom? There are rumors that teachers will be required to clean desks and even bring rags and cleaning supplies. Is there any truth to that?
157.Is every classroom and every area of every school fully ventilated? Before schools open, will the school district obtain certification from a company that is certified to conduct such tests?
158.Will there be a hotline to report violations of policy? If so, what procedure and process has been created to immediately rectify those problems? Will someone from Central Office be dispatched to the school to immediately remedy safety violations? How many employees have been designated to undertake that responsibility?
159.What protocol will be followed for pregnant teachers?
160.As more and more teachers contract COVID-19 because of being exposed to students at school, who will teach the students while they are absent?
161.It was reported on national news that in another state, at a school that already opened, the school district sent parents a letter informing them that their child was exposed to someone at school who tested positive for COVID-19, and the child must quarantine for 14 days. Why is JPPSS considering opening schools now, with the circumstances that exist?
162.Ballplayers in the NBA, Major League Baseball, and NFL are being regularly tested for COVID-19, daily in some situations. Are athletes more important than our students? Why are our students and employees only getting the benefit of minimum measures?
163.Many school employees take care of elderly parents, and/or parents who have medical conditions that place them at high or increased risk of contracting COVID. Many school employees have young children who have medical conditions that place them at high or increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Both the elderly and the young could die if they are expose to the virus. School employees who are exposed to the virus because of students who remove their face coverings, or congregate in close proximity to each other, or because high-touch surfaces aren’t being cleaned regularly, place their parents and children at risk of being on ventilators for days or even weeks, and at risk of death. Is it worth opening schools given the data at the present time?
164.Scientists have acknowledged that even those who test positive and are asymptomatic may have long-term consequences. How can the school district even consider opening schools?
165.School districts around the state and around the country aren’t willing to take that risk. School districts around the state and around the country have acknowledged that there simply are too many deaths, hospitalizations, and incidents of citizens testing positive and have decided to delay opening schools. Why not Jefferson?