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Students line up to go to their first class, after being screened by a device that detects mask-wearing and uses thermal imaging to check their body temperature, at Port Allen Middle School, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. West Baton Rouge parish school students returned to class Monday for the first time since March, when Louisiana schools were ordered to shut down because of the coronavirus.

West Baton Rouge Parish Schools leaders say they hope to bring older students back to classrooms following Gov. John Bel Edwards’ announcement that the state will loosen some restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor said Thursday that Louisiana will move into Phase 3 of reopening starting Friday, but also said rules on mask-wearing and other social distancing measures will still be in effect.

West Baton Rouge Superintendent Wes Watts said school leaders were still awaiting further details from the governor’s office, but he anticipates bringing middle and high school students back to campuses full time.

“We just need those details,” he said Thursday. “One can make a big difference.”

Currently, pre-kindergarten to sixth-grade students have been attending class in person since schools reopening in August, while half of the district’s older students leapfrog days they’re on campus or learning online.

A deciding factor on setting a time table for bringing older students back to schools will be ironing out bus schedules, Watts said.

Roughly a thousand students, or one-quarter of the district’s population, opted for virtual instruction at the beginning of the year. Their schedules will likely remain unchanged until after winter break, Watts said.

But for students who’ve been back on campuses, Watts said little will likely change in terms of social distancing rules, including mandatory mask-wearing, temperature checks and requirements for students and teachers to quarantine if they’ve been exposed to someone with the virus.

Edwards plans to spell out specific details of what activities will be allowed under the new phase.

Still, he urged residents not to let up on public health safeguards, saying during a news conference Thursday that the pandemic is not over even though new cases have declined.


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad