desk stock file photo school

During a tour of the West Jefferson High School with coronavirus precautions it can be seen that each desk in the classroom has a grey or red sticker on the top corner in Harvey, La. Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Each period, students will be asked to alternate their use of desks and to clean them off after each class. The school is scheduled to open on August 26. (Photo by Max Becherer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

East Baton Rouge Parish schools announced Friday afternoon a phased-in return to in-person instruction for all grades that will culminate in daily face-to-face instruction for every grade by Oct. 19.

The move comes the same day Gov. John Bel Edwards officially moved Louisiana to a less restrictive Phase 3 of the reopening of the state economy, which was shut down this spring because to the novel coronavirus.

In a statement, Superintendent Leslie Brown said the continued decline in COVID-19 cases in Louisiana gives her confidence to make this shift.

“The declining trends, coupled with the governor’s announcement, indicates that a gradual return to in-person learning can be safe and successful for all,” Brown said.

“We have worked with our principals, administrators, medical experts and union leaders to determine the strongest and most effective transition strategy for our students, staff and families.”

East Baton Rouge schools have been operating 100% virtual since Aug. 10. They’d already planned to bring back elementary school children Monday for twice-a-week in-person instruction. Friday’s announcement calls for daily instruction for those students starting Oct. 5.

School officials, who had been mum about middle and high schools, say that starting Sept. 28 those students will return with twice-a-week daily instruction on alternating schedules, but will also transition to full time in-person instruction by Oct. 19.

Phase 3 will make it easier for a faster reopening in the upper grades because it will allow school buses to increase their capacity from 50% to 75%.

Students in Baton Rouge public schools have been learning strictly virtually since March 13, the day Edwards abruptly ordered all schools in Louisiana closed to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

East Baton Rouge assembled a health advisory committee made up of school officials and local medical officials to help it decide when to reopen in person.

Special education students in “low incidence, self-contained classes” will return to school faster than their peers. On Monday, such children in grades pre-K to 5 will attend school four days a week, and their peers in grades 6-12 will join them on Thursday.

During this transition period, all school building will closed on Wednesday for deep cleaning.

Students don’t have to return to school if they don’t want to. The school system is asking parents to complete a virtual “opt-in” form if they want their children to keep learning from home. If families want to return in person, but at a later day, they need to talk to their school to coordinate that transition.


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