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NOLA Public Schools Suspends Weekly COVID Tracker Until Next School Year; See Final Count

Aubri Juhasz
PreK students work on a writing exercise at KIPP Central City Primary. Oct. 2, 2020.

In its final report of the 2020-21 school year, New Orleans Public Schools reported three new cases of COVID-19 Monday afternoon. The district reported 774 cases over the course of the entire school year.

While the school year officially ended in May, an estimated 13,000 students have been participating in some form of summer learning. With many of those programs already wrapped or about to conclude, the district’s tracker is also going on vacation. Updates will resume “once the 2021-2022 school year starts,” according to a press release.

Throughout the school year, the district’s tracker demonstrated the impact one positive case of COVID-19 can have on the school community forcing dozens of people to quarantine and requiring schools to shift operations online.

While the district's tracker does not keep a running total of quarantines, weekly totals frequently listed hundreds of cases. Three students tested positive for the virus last week and an additional 17 people were asked to quarantine due to possible exposure.

Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. recently announced plans to start the school year fully in-person and said families will no longer have the choice of keeping their kids at home unless medically necessary.

While all New Orleans public school students had the option to return to the classroom as early as last September, roughly 30 percent of elementary and middle school and 50 percent of high school students spent the entire year learning online.

“A major component of that mission is to have as many students as possible, ages 12 and up, vaccinated before the first day of school,” Lewis said in a recent newsletter addressed to NOLA-PS community members.

Pfizer is the only vaccine available for children and can be administered to those as young as 12 years of age. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, said last month that he expects vaccines to be approved for younger children before the end of the year or in early 2022 at the latest.

Nearly 60 percent of adults in New Orleans are fully vaccinated, but the number of children who have gotten either one or two vaccine doses is not included in the city's tracker.

In his newsletter, Lewis said the district has “offered access to vaccinations to students through our schools’ June camps and summer school programs” and “will be partnering with hospitals and medical providers all summer long to host vaccination drives around New Orleans.”

“Not only do vaccinations protect each child; they show love and respect for family and friends, classmates and community, too,” Lewis said. “They ensure our classrooms stay open, our classes no longer have to quarantine, teachers can teach and students can learn, together.”

Public school students and teachers are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine at this time and pending legislation would prevent public agencies from requiring it before the vaccines receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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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