NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans public schools will begin their year the way they ended last school year, with all remote learning in August.
The decision was announced Tuesday, a little more than three weeks before schools are slated to open. It comes as coronavirus cases around the state have risen in the weeks after regulations relaxed on what types of businesses can be reopened and the amount of capacity they can handle.
"We have made the difficult decision to begin school with a distance-learning model in August," said Henderson Lewis, the Orleans Schools Superintendent at a Tuesday press conference. "We know many teachers have concern about returning to school as the cases have increased."
Lewis said schools would continue to monitor cases with an eye on returning to the classroom after Labor Day.
New Orleans Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said that the rate of community spread of cases and the lack of sufficient testing does not make it possible to open schools safely at this time.
"In a normal world, the best place for a child is in the classroom," she said. Avegno emphasized that getting children back to school would be the city's top priority and that children may end up returning to school before other restrictions are relaxed in the city, in order to protect the children."
The state opened to Phase 1 on May 15 and went to Phase 2 a few weeks later. After a surge of positive COVID-19 cases, that in many instances exceeded the numbers at what was thought to be the pandemic’s peak, the state mandated the use of masks and shut down bars to in-person consumption this month.
Orleans Parish is nowhere near the terrible totals of hospitalizations or deaths that sparked concern and an opening of an emergency medical facility at the Convention Center during the onset of the local pandemic in March and April. However, its 7-day average of positive cases has steadily risen from an average of 20 per day when the state went to Phase 2 to an average of 102 a day now.
While increased testing is likely behind some of the increased positives, the percentage of tests that are positive has also risen.
Many schools had already announced plans to allow families (if they wish) to learn remotely while opening the schools in alternating-day fashion.
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