NEW ORLEANS - Orleans Parish public school students will not return to the classroom when school re-opens in August. And here's why: Eyewitness News has charted the number of positive cases reported in Orleans Parish since the start of Phase 2 last month. The number of cases each day has been going up from the teens last month, to around 50/day a few weeks ago. On July 21st, there were 90 new cases.
"Unfortunately at this time, the data is going in the wrong direction," said Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr., Orleans Parish Superintendent.
Almost three weeks after the Orleans Parish School Board released their 'Roadmap to Reopening,' a change.
"We've made the difficult decision to begin school under a distance learning model in August," said Lewis.
The decision officials say wasn't easy, however after looking at the city's numbers, they feel it was necessary.
"Since mid-June, we've watched the average number of daily cases steadily increase," said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the New Orleans Health Director. "It's been an alarming trend even as we've tightened restrictions."
The initial plan for schools, released July 1st, prioritized in-classroom learning for younger students. Officials say that's still their goal, but given today's climate, they were forced to pivot.
"This is our top priority," said OPSB President, Ethan Ashley. "The health and safety of our families, students, communities, and staff."
"I said prior to the 4th of July," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. "And I pleaded to the community, if we wanted our children to return to school in that environment that they're used to but that they need to thrive, that it truly depended on the actions of adults being that example."
It's why they're pleading again with New Orleans to do its part.
"Every time you leave the house, think of the 45,000 students in Orleans Parish," said Dr. Lewis. "I'm imploring you to mask up."
That way, when school leaders assess the situation in August, they'll prepare to open their doors to students instead of keeping them closed.
As of now, the goal is to welcome students back around Labor Day. Eyewitness News also asked if this change could extend the school year, and Dr. Lewis said it's a fluid situation, they'll be monitoring everything throughout the year, and officials will adjust if necessary.