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Fate of school year to be decided later this week

John Dupont

The direction on the remainder of the school year for high school seniors will be determined later this week by the state Department of Education.

Beth Scioneaux, the acting State Superintendent of Education, will give guidance to the Iberville Parish School system and all others statewide Thursday or Friday, Iberville Parish School Board Superintendent Arthur Joffrion said.

Scioneaux will follow up next week on guidance for students in grades K-11.

The action comes as schools could face an extension on their unexpected hiatus, which took effect March 13 after Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered all K-12 schools closed due to the coronavirus. Private and parochial schools followed suit with his order.

The greatest concern in the public school system hinges upon the senior class. Seniors were set to have their final day of school May 1.

An extension to April 30 would rule out a return for seniors.

The K-11 students would only return for a brief period. The school year was set to end the week of May 18, Joffrion said.

The uncertainty on the fate of the school year has become a major concern for parents, teachers, students and administrators – and it’s even worse for the senior class, he said.

I think it’s an extremely frustrating and very uncertain time for teachers, parents and students, significantly for those who are seniors, who are missing their last several months of their senior year,” Joffrion said.

The coronavirus shutdown serves as a bookend to a high school career that started with uncertainty for this year’s senior class. Some were out of school due to the August 2016 flood.

It’s a much tougher blow during the senior year, Joffrion said.

They were supposed to have their senior prom and all the special traditions that each school and each program have that make it uniquely their school tradition, and this year’s seniors aren’t able to participate in those things,” Joffrion said. “It puts us as a school system in a very unprecedented situation where we have to take the order and also strongly consider these students and their parents who look so forward to that.”

It also hits families in the pocketbooks. Many have already invested hundreds – and, in some cases, thousands – of dollars on items related to proms and graduations.

The one thing we know: is that our school system will review very carefully all Department of Education waivers and make every effort to work with every senior to give him or her the opportunity to ensure they receive their diploma,” Joffrion said.

The diplomas come with one standing stipulation, in spite of the shutdown.

They must all have passing grades, he said.

The school system will work to ensure all students have a chance to make the grade required for graduation, although it’s not possible in all instances, the superintendent said.

I don’t want to come out and say every senior is going to graduate,” Joffrion said. “If a senior for three of the nin-week periods didn’t do what they were supposed to do, we can’t waive all of that for one nine weeks, but we will work with a system with each of our schools and students individually to give them the best chance of achieving graudation requirements once those are final.”