Going back to school in fall 2020 in metro Baton Rouge will be a learning experience for everyone as the state continues its fight against coronavirus.
Schools have basic guidelines provided by the state's education board, but there are also plenty of differences among school districts and parishes.
Below are some questions you might find yourself asking as the first day of school approaches:
When do various schools start and how are they approaching in person vs. virtual learning?
The school year starts in mid-to-late August. Some schools are starting virtually and might shift to more in-person instruction after Labor Day. Some are beginning with a mix of in-person and virtual learning. And others, including Catholic schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, are opening with daily, in-person instruction.
What happens if a student, teacher or employee tests positive for coronavirus?
The state's guidelines say that schools "should plan for and expect that some students will get COVID-19 during the school year," and that they will possibly expose other students and staff to it no matter what preventative measures are taken.
With this in mind, the state said schools should follow these guidelines when that happens:
-- Students who are sick should stay at home regardless of their illness, and those with COVID-19 are to remain isolated at home until they have recovered and are determined to no longer be infectious.
-- Individuals who were in close contact with an infected student will be contacted as part of the Office of Public Health's contact tracing process.
-- Close contacts will be asked to stay home and monitor symptoms for 14 days.
-- Schools should ensure continuity of education for students and staff who are quarantined or isolated.
-- Plans should be prepared for school closures between 3-5 days if the school environment is determined to be a source of ongoing COVID-19 spread.
Is everyone required to wear masks?
Adults and students (3rd grade and up) must wear face coverings, as able, to the maximum extent possible. Any child over 2 years old may wear a face covering. Face coverings should be worn in all areas of the school. This includes classrooms. Most importantly, face coverings should be worn during arrival, dismissal, and any other transition within the school building. Children under the age of 2 and individuals with severe breathing difficulties should not wear face coverings, per the state's education board.
What's the limit on the number of students allowed in a classroom?
Among the standards in Phase 2 are no more than 25 students may convene in a single room or outdoors. In Phase 3 that increases to 50.
What's the limit on the number of students allowed on a school bus?
In Phase 2 buses are be limited to 50% of capacity, including adults. In Phase 3 that increases to 75%.
How will lunch work?
Guidelines suggest students eat lunch in their classrooms where they can be socially distanced. Staggered meal times in cafeterias are also recommended by the state. Outdoor seating is also an option.
Who has the final say on issues such as when to return to class in-person and other learning formats?
While Louisiana's top school board and other state leaders are providing guidance, when public schools start and what formats they use for instruction are strictly up to officials in local school districts and organizations such as the archdiocese.
Local education leaders are free to delay the start of school until October or beyond as long as students get the required number of instructional time before the end of the academic calendar: 63,720 minutes, or 177 school days.