NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans area school systems have seen an explosion in new COVID-19 cases since returning from the holiday break.
Hundreds of students and teachers are now infected, and thousands are now quarantined.
“Yeah, it’s scary,” United Teachers of New Orleans VP Lauren Jewett said. “I think it’s nerve racking. It’s disruptive.”
Teachers in Jefferson Parish are equally as concerned.
“Students are in and out,” Jefferson Federation of Teachers President Kesler Camese-Jones said. “Our employees are in and out.”
The New Orleans Public School system is reporting 1,636 student COVID cases and nearly 600 staff cases. More than 2,200 students and staff are now quarantining there.
UTNO is recommending a school switch to virtual learning if 15 percent of the students or teachers is out due to COVID. The union also wants all schools to have equal access to testing, vaccines, and better masks.
“We want to make sure that every student in this system gets what they need, every teacher gets what they need,” Jewett said.
Jefferson Parish schools report 525 students are currently infected along with 267 employees. About 2,000 students and staff are now quarantining.
The Jefferson Federation of Teachers is calling for a mask mandate in the district.
“Right now, (masks) are strongly encouraged,” Camese-Jones said. “Visitors obviously have to wear masks. But we know it’s affecting our children, so we definitely want to keep them safe.”
Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Larry Carter says some districts are doing a good job keeping schools safe and others need stricter safety measures.
“I think those school districts that are doing a heck of a job by keeping all those safety protocols in place when we had the first 4 surges need to be commended,” Carter said. "For those who need to revisit what their protocols are we hope that they do so."
Educators hope this latest COVID surge peaks soon, so schools can get back to the business of teaching our kids.
“It’s about vaccinations,” Carter said. “It’s about making sure that we do those protocols that keep us all safe, face masks wearing, social distancing, and making sure we keep the surfaces clean.”
Wednesday, teachers in East Baton Rouge Parish staged a planned “sickout”.
They were protesting the school system’s response to the recent Covid-surge and teacher shortages this semester.
No such job action is currently on the table in Orleans or Jefferson.