Delaying school opening 'difficult, but necessary,' Joffrion says

Staff Report

The first day of in-person school in Iberville Parish has been delayed a week for extra safeguard measures against the coronavirus.

Schools across the parish will open to face-to-face learning Monday, Aug. 17. Schools were scheduled to reopen Aug. 10.

The decision came “after much thought, prayer, deliberation and visiting all 13 school and program sites,” Superintendent Arthur Joffrion said in a video posted on the IPSB website.

The decision came one day after the Zachary Community School District voted to delay its opening a week after several school personnel tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The effect that the events in Zachary had on my decision were little to nine” Joffrion said. “We are mostly concerned in Iberville Parish with the needs of our employees and students.”

All of the teachers have been on campus the entire week for professional development.

The decision came after Joffrion heard concerns from employees and school leaders. They felt they needed more time to become fully acclimated with the extended number of procedures that will become started protocol for the upcoming school year.

“We felt we could’ve rushed it on Monday with kids Monday, but we wanted to make sure all of our faculty and staff were clear on protocol in place on things like temperature checks, morning arrival, dismissal and static grouping,” he said. “The only we could ensure that was if we delayed the opening of face-to-face instruction.”

Professional development has focused on classes in which principals have discussed the remote learning issues with the teachers.

It has also involved training from school nurses to ensure the faculty, staff and all other employees understand the face covering – not only while with the student, but also while interacting with other adults, friends and colleagues on campus.”

The Central Community School System began classes Wednesday and West Baton Rouge will start Monday.

Joffrion opted for the delay after consultation with School Board president Polly Hidalgo on what was best for the school system and all other stakeholders.

“The timing of the decision is not perfect, but I felt, along with my top level staff, that it was a necessary decision that we would rather slow it down and do it right rather than rush into it and make mistake,” he said. “To those who have been inconvenienced by this decision, I wanted to display a heartfelt and sincere apology.”

“I understand the difficulty of childcare and which way parents have to work, but I thought five more days would allow our employees to have a stronger start to the school year,” Joffrion said.

This delay will give teachers an opportunity to reach out to their students and to make sure they have the appropriate technology, and that they are comfortable with the set up

“They will also be reaching out to parents so they can begin to introduce themselves to build relationships and create bonds with students so that we return to face to face, there will be some familiarity in place,” Joffrion said. “We feel our decision is necessary because we want to have more than the minimum requirements in place, and we feel the additional week provides more comfort with that.”

The superintendent said he has consulted daily with Clint Moore, director of the Iberville Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, to monitor the trend on the trend.

The last single-day case increase that was higher than 20 was July 27, a trend that may be a sign of a plateau in Iberville, Joffrion said.

“In a parish with a population of more than 33,000, that’s not bad,” he said. “Every single case is too much, but it looks like the situation is much more under control.”

Iberville tallied 14 new cases Thursday and seven today (Friday). All COVIDS-19 statistics are released at noon six days a week by the Louisiana Department of Health.