New Orleans Area Schools And Coronavirus: Here Are The Basics

Mar 11, 2020

As of Friday, March 13, all public schools in Louisiana have been closed for one month. More information can be found here.

This section was last updated: Friday, March 13, 2020 at 11:36 a.m.

Schools and universities across the country are responding to the threat of coronavirus exposure and transmission in different ways. What about local schools and universities? Below is your local, go-to guide for questions about schools and coronavirus. We’ll keep updating this post with additional questions and answers as news develops.

We’ll start the guide with Jefferson and Orleans Parishes, and add others in the coming days — so if you don’t see your school district, college, or university listed right now, keep coming back for updates.

Do you have a question you want us to answer about coronavirus? Send it to us: tips@wwno.org.

Have any students or teachers tested positive for coronavirus?

Not yet.

As a precautionary measure, Jefferson Parish Schools and NOLA Public Schools are advising any students or staff who have travelled to a country on the CDC’s risk-assessed list to wait 14 days before returning to school.

Have any schools closed yet?

K-12:

Waldorf School of New Orleans will be closed until March 30, effective at noon Friday (March 13).

Jewish Community Day School is closing for “at least two weeks,” starting Monday, March 16. Students will be instructed remotely for as long as school is cancelled.

Lycee Francais of New Orleans will be closed Thursday (March 12) and Friday (March 13).

According to a statement from NOLA Public Schools, that decision was made based on an “unconfirmed potential community exposure,” which was “not in line with the guidelines set forth and discussed by NOLA-PS.” That decision was communicated to families and staff Wednesday evening through an internal messaging service according to The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, and the school plans to use that time to sanitize the campuses before students and staff return on Monday.

New Harmony High School is closed Thursday (March 12) and Friday (March 13).

In a recorded message on the school’s main voicemail, New Harmony founder Sunny Dawn Summers said a family member of a student “had an unconfirmed, possible community exposure to the coronavirus, not due to international travel.” The school does not believe any students, faculty, or staff have been directly exposed, but that the decision to close for two days was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

All other schools under NOLA Public Schools are remaining open.

Higher education: 

The University of New Orleans, Loyola University, and Xavier University will begin remote, online instruction Monday (March 16).

Dillard University, Tulane University, and Southern University at New Orleans will move to remote instruction on Monday, March 23.

Delgado Community College is not yet suspending face-to-face instruction, according to a tweet Wednesday evening.

LSU, in Baton Rouge, has cancelled class next week (March 16-20). It will begin remote instruction on Monday, March 30. (Spring break was already scheduled for March 23-27, so students will have two full weeks off.)

What about extracurricular activities? Sports and other school events?

Orleans Parish (NOLA Public Schools):

NOLA-PS says its schools should make their own decisions about field trips, but that field trips to large gatherings should be cancelled. The district aims to reduce spectators at sporting events, but says competitions may continue at this time. Assemblies and events with more than 250 people should be cancelled, as should non essential travel out of state for staff and students.

Jefferson Parish (Jefferson Parish Schools):

Jefferson Parish Schools has canceled all field trips, according to The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate. Parent-teacher conferences (scheduled for March 16) will be by phone or email only.

Cancelations do not include athletics. High school sports are under the purview of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA), according to Christian Justrabo, Communications Coordinator for Jefferson Parish Schools.

More information about Jefferson Parish Schools and coronavirus preparation can be found here.

What steps are schools taking right now?

Orleans Parish:

  • Declared state of emergency (March 12) in order to access emergency funds for coronavirus-related spending
  • Developing a distance-learning plan in case school buildings are closed; that could involve buying wireless hotspots for students
  • Developing a plan to develop meals to students who rely on them -- possibly via yellow school bus routes
  • Cleaning "high touch" surfaces more frequently
  • Monitoring absences
  • Students and staff who have traveled to a country on the CDC's travel risk list have been asked to wait 14 days before returning to school
  • Sharing fact sheets with families about the virus
  • Creating a website with coronavirus updates (found here)

Jefferson Parish:

  • Parent-teacher conferences (scheduled for March 16) will be by phone or email only. More information here.
  • Field trips and large assemblies are suspended until further notice, according to The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
  • Requiring employees to complete an online training for common illness prevention
  • Requesting that staff and students who have traveled to a country on the CDC’s risk assessed list wait 14 days before returning to school
  • Monitoring absences
  • Following the guidance of the Louisiana Department of Health 
  • More information about coronavirus precautions in Jefferson Parish can be found here

Lafourche Parish

  • All field trips are cancelled
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning often-touched surfaces, like doorknobs and water fountains
  • Following guidance from the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Higher education:

Nearly all local colleges and universities have already suspended face-to-face instruction and are moving to remote instruction in the coming weeks (specific details can be found above).

University administrators have encouraged students to move off their respective campuses. Recognizing that some students might not be able to do so on such short notice, most schools have said that residence halls and dining halls will remain open for the rest of the semester.

What is the trigger for canceling school?

This answer may not be black and white, but Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) officials have said that “one known case impacting a school community” could cause that school to close, or could cause the whole school system to close.

A spokesperson for Jefferson Parish Schools said any decision to close a school would be made on a case by case basis. If a student or staff member tested positive, it would “notify the Louisiana Department of Health and request guidance on appropriate next steps."

In a letter to parents sent March 12, Lafourche Parish School District’s supervisory staff said its schools would not close “unless advised by the Louisiana Department of Health and other state agencies.”

My family relies on public schools for meals and childcare. What happens to those services if their school is closed?

NOLA Public Schools is working on this.

By email, a spokesperson for NOLA Public Schools said the district is “working with our colleagues at the Louisiana Department of Education to secure a waiver from the USDA to be able to provide meals during a prolonged school closures.” It’s also working with schools to “determine a meal distribution model that promotes social distancing,” the spokesperson said. At a school board meeting Thursday (March 12), officials said that could involve using yellow school buses and the routes they follow.

A spokesperson for Jefferson Parish Schools said Wednesday (March 11) the district would not be able to provide meals if schools were closed.

How are schools and universities making these decisions?

Schools, school districts, colleges and universities say they are consulting regularly with health officials at local and state levels and are making decisions based on advice from those experts, as well as guidance at the national level from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more information about COVID-19 and children, the CDC has a guide here. You can also read more about how the CDC is issuing guidance to schools across the country here.

Have health questions about coronavirus in the state? The Louisiana Department of Health has set up a hotline: call 211. For text updates from state health officials, text LACOVID to 898-211.

To stay up to date on all the latest coronavirus news in the state, follow our live blog here. It’s updated regularly throughout the day.

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