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East Baton Rouge Schools superintendent Warren Drake speaks on the parish school system's plan to combat the coronavirus, Thursday, March 12, 2020, at the school board offices in Baton Rouge, La.

Superintendent Warren Drake on Monday was handed emergency powers by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board to lead the school district’s efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak and continue daily business without the need to continue seek the approval of the nine-member board.

According to a three-page resolution approved at a special board meeting Monday morning, Drake now has added power to make purchases, deliver meals, pay employees, adjust work requirements, change the school calendar, seek waivers from regulations, provide distance education, enter into contracts and other time-sensitive decisions. These emergency powers don’t have a conclusion date, but will continue “until withdrawn by the School Board.”

The declaration of a local emergency is similar to moves made by other school districts in Louisiana since Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered that schools close until April 13.

Monday’s meeting had been tentatively planned for later in the week, but was quickly moved up to Monday at 10 a.m. after the governor released another order on Sunday ordering Louisianans to “shelter in place.” The board did not give 24-hour advance notice of Monday's meeting, citing a state law that says that "in cases of extraordinary emergency, such notice shall not be required."

After a short discussion, seven out of nine board members on Monday approved the emergency resolution. Board member Mike Gaudet and Jill Dyason were absent, as was Superintendent Drake. Only five people were in the audience at the School Board Office on South Foster Drive.

Board member Dadrius Lanus applauded the school district’s work so far in dealing with the outbreak.

“These are some really turbulent times for this community,” Lanus said.

Board member David Tatman had similar sentiments.

“This is uncharted territory,” Tatman said. “I thought I’d never see this. It’s like a movie.”

The resolution calls for Drake to make "good and faithful efforts" to keep the board of the actions he is taking "in writing at reasonable intervals."

Tatman said Drake told him that he would be calling all nine board members before made important decisions and would only move forward if there was a "consensus."

Drake has already announced he is retiring June 30. The coronavirus hit just as the School Board was reading to interview five candidates to replace Drake.

Board Vice President Tramelle Howard said hopes that the board can interview those finalists sometime in late April or May, so there's enough to time to hire a new superintendent by June 30.

Tatman said Drake is willing to stay on for a couple of weeks to a month if need be. And Tatman said the board alternately could apromote a staff member to interim superintendent if the coronavirus crisis persists longer.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.