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Upper school students at LSU's University Lab School leave at dismissal at the end of the day, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, on the first day of classes there after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting Monday, LSU Lab School will shift to virtual-only instruction for the next two weeks in its upper grades thanks to daily increases in the number of students testing positive for coronavirus and an increase in quarantines in general.

“The increase in both categories has warranted the quarantine of a significant amount of our faculty and students, particularly at the secondary level, which includes grades 6-12,” wrote Interim Superintendent Paul Manthei in a letter to parents sent out Friday morning. “This week, we have seen those numbers continue to rise each day.”

Athletic activities will continue to operate on campus, but clubs will be meeting virtually.

Grades K-5 at this K-12 school on the LSU campus will continue to come for in-person instruction because the positive rate and the numbers of students potentially exposed to the virus at those grade levels “remains very low.”

LSU Lab School has about 1,400 students enrolled.

With a few exceptions, schools, both public and private, throughout the greater Baton Rouge area returned from winter break to in-person instruction even as community spread of coronavirus has been on the upswing. LSU Lab School did the same this week before its about-face.

“We are aware this temporary change regarding the way your children attend school may present a challenge for some of our families, and it is not a decision made lightly,” Manthei writes. “Please know that the safety and welfare of the Cub community remains our utmost priority, and every decision regarding the pandemic and its effect upon the education of our students is made with everyone’s best interests in mind.”

Manthei said he’s not sure what will happen on Monday, Jan. 25 — whether students in upper grades will stay virtual, return to in-person instruction or whether it will do a hybrid of the two, saying that “will be determined based on local and state reporting statistics for COVID-19.”

The shift to virtual instruction at LSU Lab School is notable because the school was one of the first schools in Baton Rouge to reopen for in-person instruction this school year, operating under reopening rules distinct for the university it shares space with.

Manthei started as interim superintendent within the past week, replacing former Superintendent Amy Westbrook, who recently stepped down after almost two years leading the prominent school. 

Manthei has worked for many years as an instructor in LSU's School of Education, most recently as its director of logistics for online & continuing education partnerships. Before pursuing his doctorate, Manthei was a middle and a high school English teacher. He spent five years as an eighth-grade teacher at the lab school.


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