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Livingston Parish School Superintendent Joe Murphy on Friday asked students, parents and employees to “remain patient and understanding” as the suburban school district grapples with how to deal with Gov. John Bel Edwards’ order to close all public schools in the state for the next month.

“Our leadership is currently working with our administrators and central office staff on enacting measures that allow our students to maintain a level of academic interaction during this time,” Murphy said in a written statement.

In an interview Friday, Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill said some of the issues schools officials are trying to work through are the methods with which the system will continue to provide instruction to the district's more than 26,000 students and how school officials can continue to offer meals to needy students.

While online classes are being considered, Parrill noted that not everyone in the parish has home access or a computer on which a child could receive and perform lessons. He said families may have cellphones with internet access, but they don't offer families an easy way to access homework.

In addition, the parish school system is not a so-called "one-to-one" district, in which each student has access to a laptop. He said the district may have use paper packets to get lessons to some students.

"It's going to be a blended approach," Parrill said.

Parrill said, in preparation for possible school closures, school officials took a survey of one school with about 700 children. He said about 250 didn't have internet access.

According to the latest census estimates, nearly 90% of homes had a computer in Livingston Parish in 2018 while nearly 79% had broadband internet access. Nationally, the average for broadband access is 78%, but a census report also found that more rural and lower income areas fall behind the national average by 13 percentage points.

Parrill added the district, which was the largest employer in the parish in mid-2019 with 3,800 employees and a budget of $308 million, will continue to keep teachers and other employees working through the school closures.  

Teachers will be expected to manage student lessons remotely, for example.

Livingston Superintendent Murphy urged those interested to monitor and other school district “media feeds” for additional information.

“We are working closely with multiple state agencies in an attempt to provide our students, teachers and staff with the safest environment and directives as possible,” he said.

The governor’s order closes all public schools in the state through April 13 to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Murphy said school staff will “thoroughly clean and disinfect” school campuses and buses in the days to come.

“Our number one priority is the safety and well-being of all our students, faculty and staff. We are committed to doing all that is necessary to protect the health of our school community,” he said.

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