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St. John schools see spike in COVID-19 infections; decisions are forthcoming

RESERVE — St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools have experienced a spike in COVID-19 infections over the past two days, Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin announced during Thursday’s School Board meeting. 

School Board President Patrick Sanders said families can expect the School Board to decide by next Friday whether public schools will need to go all-virtual or return to the hybrid schedule.  

He said this will allow families time to make necessary accommodations over the Thanksgiving holidays in the event changes are made to the current schedule.  

The School Board meeting was ongoing at the time this report was written. L’OBSERVATEUR will provide a follow-up with the number of COVID-19 infections reported this week. 

School Board member Keith Jones pointed out that St. Charles Catholic High School also saw a spike in cases this week. St. Charles Catholic students returned to a blended learning model on Wednesday, Nov. 11 to limit the number of students on campus and promote social distancing throughout the school. 

In an online statement, Principal Dr. Courtney Millet said, We will continue in the blended model through November 20 in an effort to slow this down. Our goal is to return to the traditional mode of learning after the Thanksgiving holiday. A decision will be made and communicated regarding our return mode of learning by Friday, November 27, 2020.” 

The full statement is available here 

Hookfin stressed that safety is a priority that will guide all decision-making within St. John Parish Public Schools. She added that the school system has a responsibility to make the right choices and keep the community safe.  

Hookfin is in constant communication with Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, Parish Council representatives and school leaders regarding COVID-19 data.  

“I would love for our community members, our staff members and our parents to understand that safety takes precedence,” she said. “Of course, we want academic achievement to increase and teaching and learning to take place at all times, but our great district will always focus on safety with a priority of keeping our staff members, including teachers, principals and, most importantly, our scholars safe.” 

Hookfin said St. John Parish Schools have planned effectively to ensure that virtual learning can take place in the event schools go virtual-only. 

The school system recently obtained a shipment of computers to increase access to online learning. David Andras, supervisor of Information Technology, said the school district can guarantee one computer for every student in approximately 12 days if the IT staff enters emergency operations and works around the clock to prepare the machines for student use.  

School Board member Nia Mitchell said the Board should also consider the potential COVID-19 spikes that could result from the Christmas holidays. She asked whether the School Board should consider a staggered return to the classroom in January. 

“Christmas Break is about two weeks long, and the incubation period is about two weeks,” Mitchell said. “They are wanting to be with family because that’s normal. Things have been abnormal for so long that families and going to want to get together. That’s why we’re seeing spikes around holidays.” 

This is a developing story, and more information will be provided as it becomes available.