St. Mary Parish schools to open on Aug. 10

Rev. Craig Mathews, a St. Mary Parish parent, charged the St. Mary Parish School Board on Thursday with not giving parents more time to digest plans on how school will begin. His comments annoyed school board member Wayne Deslatte, who threatened Mathews with removal from the Board Room. 

CENTERVILLE — St. Mary Parish schools will open their doors for half of their students on Aug. 10 and the other half on Aug . 11, despite the objection of three school board members who want classes to start after Labor Day

The board voted 6-3 during a special meeting on Thursday to begin the year the second week of August. That was after voting against a motion by board member Pearl Rack to postpone the opening of school.

Board members Joe Foulcard and Sylvia Lockett supported Rack’s motion, saying they believe the public needs more time to digest how school will flow in the wake of COVID-19.

Rev. Craig Mathews, one of the parents who spoke before the board Thursday, also wanted school to begin after Labor Day, saying, “parents need to digest how their children will be educated in the wake of the virus.”

But board member Marilyn LaSalle said starting school now is necessary, due to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education not having waived or made any adjustments to required instructional time for classes, which are roughly 180 days.

“If we start after Labor Day, taking into account school make up days we will need due to inclement weather, we will be holding school in June.”

Schools Superintendent Dr. Teresa Bagwell said central office supervisors have been working tirelessly on plans for holding system-wide classes in the wake of COVID-19.

Bagwell said Thursday those plans have been revised many times, due to changes that have come from BESE.

Assistant Superintendent Joe Stadalis said opening school will be “a problem-solving event every day until we get there, hopefully by the end of September.”

When school opens, there will be multiple entrances for each student. Upon entry, the student will be directed to the cafeteria, where they will wash their hands and pick up breakfast.

There will also be a temperature team at each school, taking student temperatures before the day begins.

The principals of each school will notify parents which students will begin on Aug 10 and which on Aug 11, prior to those dates. These schools are only going to take 50 percent of their student body on each of those days.

Those students who begin Aug. 10 will also attend classes on Aug 12. Those who start Aug. 11, will also attend Aug. 13. No student will attend classes on Aug. 14, which has been set for an in-service day for teachers.

Starting the week of Aug. 17, Elementary school students will attend classes every day.

But junior high and high school students will attend on an A/B schedule. Half will attend school on Mondays and Thursdays and the other half, Tuesdays and Fridays.

No junior high or high school students will attend school on Wednesdays. That day will be reserved for cleaning the schools.

Stadalis said student bus routes are still being established, but the buses will run with 50 percent occupancy.

Also, students will be asked to come to school wearing a mask, although the schools will have a supply on hand.

Elementary school students will remain at their desks for lunch. They will also remain in their classroom and not change classes.

But when junior high and high school students change classes, they will be kept moving in one direction, to comply with social distancing. Also, their lunch schedules are still being discussed.

Parents will be asked to keep their children at home if they are sick.

However, if a student comes to school sick, or their temperature is abnormal, the student will be immediately removed to an isolated room and the parent will be notified.

Virtual learning has been a part St. Mary Parish Schools for at least the past six years.

It the wake of COVID-19, however, parents have until Monday to enroll their students for virtual learning.

Stadalis said elementary and junior high students who enroll must make at least a six week commitment. Afterward, they can continue in the program, or they can attend regular classes.

“We’re asking for a parent commitment as well, or else it won’t work. Their children need their guidance, as they will be doing class work and assignments on laptops.”

High school students he said, have to commit for one semester. If they wish to continue, they can, or they can attend classes after the first semester.

Also, if high school sports return to their respective high school, and the student is an athlete, he or she will be allowed to play, while still being enrolled in the Virtual Learning Program.

Stadalis said all students will be in regular contact with their teacher and will have to take tests. They will receive their grades as normal. “It is a very structured program.”

The school system will provide laptops under funds received from the Cares Act. There will be some sort of sign out system for the laptops, as well as requirements for their use.

Parents of Special Ed Students are asked to call the system’s Supervisor of Special Education, Debra McClarity at 337-828-1767.

If the state moves into Phase 3, Stadalis said the COVID-19 procedures for instruction, will continue.

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