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'None of it is ideal, but it is necessary': Students will finish the school year from home

With classrooms closed for the rest of the school year, local districts are working to make sure distance learning is giving students equal access to education.

NEW ORLEANS — Forced out of school buildings, classrooms across Louisiana are virtual, which has districts still working out the kinks while trying to make sure learning is top priority.

“I’m worried about what’s happening across the board and just trying to make the very best of what is not an ideal situation,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said.  

Edwards says there is concern about educational disparity, mainly because of access to technology.

“You know that there are certain parts of the state that are not able to do this as efficiently and effectively as other parts,” Edwards said. “I happen to think while online education is the best alternative, I happen to think students learn best when sitting in the classroom.”

To help meet that need, the New Orleans Public School District recently spent $3.9 million dollars on 10,000 Chromebooks and 8,000 Wi-Fi hot spots to keep students and teachers connected.

“Our schools were able to, on their own fill a lot of those gaps because of technology they already have in their buildings, but not many schools are one to one, so that’s when the district came in,” Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr. said.

That plan was district driven because there’s no solid plan from the state as to how to get it done. Acting superintendent of education Beth Scioneaux says the state is providing guidance, but it’s up to local districts to create plans for everything.

“We are working closely with the districts to asses where they are in their plans.  Everyone needs a plan in each community to help their students,” Scioneaux said.

That means local plans for things like distance learning, academic evaluations and how to determine whether students move to the next grade.

“I think it’s really important that we asses that in these next six weeks that we have a system in place, support the school districts in doing that because they need to know where their students are,” Scioneaux said. “We want to make sure we understand their learning levels.”

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With a COVID-19 vaccine not expected to be available by Fall, Governor Edwards say he’s already looking at how next school year might look if students are back on campus. That could mean no large assemblies and students arriving to and leaving school at different times to avoid large groups.

“None of it is ideal, but it is necessary,” Edwards said.

The governor, who’s own son is a high school senior, says he wants to make sure graduates are properly celebrated. He just not sure what that will look like, or when.

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