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Mandatory mask notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic on pink paper on entrance doors of Woodlawn Elementary School in Baton Rouge.

East Baton Rouge Parish public schools and Catholic schools with the Diocese of Baton Rouge will still require students who come in close contact with COVID to quarantine, but public schools in Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa and West Baton Rouge parishes will make those quarantines optional.

The announcements come the day after the Louisiana Department of Education said districts could allow parents to decide whether to quarantine their kids who are exposed. That decision quickly drew criticism from the governor and state health officials, who said it could worsen the spread of COVID.

East Baton Rouge school superintendent Sito Narcisse said he made the decision to keep mandatory quarantines because of advice from state officials and a local advisory committee of medical providers. 

"The guidance of these healthcare professionals has not changed and has remained clear on the quarantine guidelines for unvaccinated individual and close contacts," Narcisse wrote in a letter to school employees.

Similarly, Dan Borné, spokesman for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, said the 31 diocesan schools in eight parishes are sticking with the old rules.

"Our schools are continuing to operate under the current policy," Borné said. "There has been no change."

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But Ascension superintendent David Alexander said his district would make the choice mandatory, though after-school activities and athletics will follow previous guidelines for now. 

"As has always been the case, new guidelines require us to be agile and sometimes move quickly," Alexander wrote in a message to staff and parents. "Our school nurses will work with school leaders to provide communication, help with situations, and work through any unique circumstances. 

Livingston Parish Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy announced Thursday the district would make quarantine optional. 

“Livingston Parish Public Schools will continue to comply with state guidelines as it relates to policies and procedures related to our efforts to avoid and lessen the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Murphy said. “It is important that we continue to work together to create the safest environment we can for our communities."

Tangipahoa and West Baton Rouge parish schools will also change their district policy to allow parental choice for quarantine.


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