Zachary school officials are considering pushing back the start of the 2020-21 school year by a few days to give teachers a little extra time to prepare themselves and their classrooms for educating in the age of the coronavirus.
Superintendent Scott Devillier told the School Board June 30 that he and his staff are thinking of moving the first day of school, currently set for Aug. 6, to Aug. 10. Teachers are scheduled to come back to work Aug. 3.
He said the additional prep time would be helpful because “there’s so many different adjustments and procedures that will have to be put in place,” such as maintaining social distancing while moving groups of kids around school grounds and practicing how to get them on and off buses.
The extra days would be taken from contingency days already built into the schedule for weather, Devillier said. No holidays would be affected.
The district doesn’t yet have a comprehensive plan ready for reopening school, Devillier said. Guidelines from the state health and education departments — as well as the coronavirus pandemic itself — are still evolving.
He said final decisions will be made over the course of July as additional advice comes down from state officials.
Board members heard about a number of other measures school district leaders are considering, including:
- Offering a “blended learning” approach. Students would be divided into "A" and "B" groups that come to school on alternating days Monday through Thursday; everyone would attend virtual classes on Fridays. School leaders are hoping they can schedule siblings to come on the same days.
- Rolling out a full-time online curriculum for students who cannot return to school.
- Taking the temperature of students, employees and visitors when they come to school and asking them to wear face coverings.
- Altering bus routes so students can space out inside the vehicles and drivers can clean them between trips.
- Recruiting additional qualified substitute teachers to be prepared for the possibility of teachers having to take off for extended periods of time if they have to quarantine due to the virus.
- Training teachers and parents to better assist children who are learning virtually.
Should Louisiana regress to Phase 1 of reopening, schools would shut down their campuses and switch to online instruction, Devillier said.
Also at the meeting, the board welcomed a new member: Elecia Lathon, who was appointed to fill the District 6 seat. Heidi Vessel, who was elected to the position in 2014 and was reelected in 2018, is stepping down.
Lathon is an assistant professor of professional practice in the LSU School of Education and assistant to the director of the School of Education.
Devillier presented Vessel a souvenir paperweight and thanked her for her service.
“This has been the highlight of my life,” said Vessel, a local attorney. “Serving on the board turned out to be more edifying that I thought it would be.”
Editor's Note: This story was changed on July 7 to correct Elecia Lathon's title and work history.