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Newly selected East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Sito Narcisse.

Extraordinary times call for bold and timely action. We understand the urgency of returning students and educators to safe and productive learning spaces focused on bridging the gaps created by these extraordinary times. East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Sito Narcisse has proposed to use CARES and ESSER funding to do just that with a comprehensive and strategic proposal released Thursday.

The district has proposed to launch a “Smart Start” early return to schools, expanding leadership and educator development, while providing educators with full compensation and an additional $1,300 stipend for all early return days. Coupled with a proposal for additional literacy and math supports, implementation of proven social-emotional learning techniques and additional wrap-around services for students, this is the type of bold and comprehensive plan that will help our children recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Every family, every child has been impacted by the pandemic. For those students who have the most to lose, these gaps, and inequities have created an even greater divide. While the shift to an earlier school start date may be understandably difficult for some, we urge educators and families to consider the long-term benefits for all students.

Countless amounts of research, data, and common sense show that the more time a child spends in the classroom with quality curriculum and educators, the smaller their learning gaps, and the better they are able to build upon their learning foundations, ultimately becoming more successful. Students who have the most to lose through the COVID-19 pandemic have been hardest hit. If we fail to act urgently now, we risk failing in our obligation to Baton Rouge’s children for years to come.

The bottom line is this, giving students more time in front of a caring and supportive educator committed to their growth is the right thing for kids. We applaud Narcisse’s efforts to simply do what is right for students. All of the damage created by COVID-19 will not be solved through one initiative, that’s why it is imperative to support the comprehensive strategy laid out by the superintendent to help students, teachers and families through COVID-19 recovery and beyond.

PRESTON CASTILLE

BELINDA DAVIS

RONNIE MORRIS

members, state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Baton Rouge