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NOLA-PS Reports Four New Cases Of COVID-19, 146 In Quarantine

Aubri Juhasz

Over the last week, four additional cases of COVID-19 have been reported in New Orleans public schools, the district said Thursday as part of its weekly data release.

There are currently 12 active cases of COVID-19, in six staff members and six students. The district defines an active case as one that is confirmed and within its isolation period.

The new cases were reported at Arise Academy, Paul Habans Charter School, Einstein Charter School at Sarah Towles Reed and Landry-Walker High School. Across nine schools, 146 students and staff members are currently in quarantine due to possible exposure.

Older students began a staggered return to the classroom earlier this week, while younger students have been learning in-person since late September.

Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said Monday that the district is prepared for positive cases and has clear testing and quarantine policies in place. The district has partnered with LCMC Health Children’s Hospital and Ochsner Hospital for Children to provide rapid testing for symptomatic students and staff.

About 40 percent of the district’s 45,000 students have decided to return to the classroom. The rest have opted to stick with 100 percent virtual learning for the time being. Families have the option to select in-person or remote instruction each academic quarter.

The local teacher’s union, United Teachers of New Orleans Local 527, is sponsoring an online petition that calls for greater transparency and accountability when it comes to COVID-19 cases in the public school system. As of Friday afternoon, 145 signatures had been collected.

“Currently there is no clear way to report violations of the guidelines observed in school buildings and the public reporting of COVID cases or quarantine based on school-based contacts only happens weekly, furthermore, it is not clear what concrete actions will be taken to hold schools accountable for violations,” the petition states.

The petition requests that the district take four immediate steps, including:

  • setting up an anonymous hotline so individuals can report suspected COVID-19 violations;
  • reporting case data in greater detail and within 24 hours of receipt;
  • detailing how schools will be held accountable if they’re found to be in violation of the district’s health and safety policies;
  • and providing regular free testing to all students and staff.

Right now, testing is only available to symptomatic students and staff, though the district has said it is working on a plan for some form of surveillance testing.
The district’s COVID-19 dashboard displays the number of active COVID-19 cases and non-positive individuals currently in quarantine, but does not keep a running total of how many students and staff have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19.

It also does not detail whether individuals were exposed to the virus in a school building or contracted the virus as a result of this exposure. Without this information it is impossible to determine whether schools are the site of community transmission.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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