Face-to-face learning remains top priority for local schools

Staff Report

Face-to-face learning will remain intact at public schools across Iberville Parish until further notice, while remote classes will remain an option for students during the extended period of Phase II COVID mitigation.

Students at Crescent Elementary, seen here in a photo from the start of the school year, are among those who will have the option to continue face-to-face learning. Remote classes will remain available through the school system for parents who request it for their children, Superintendent Arthur Joffrion said.

The in-class format resumed for students in grades pre-K through sixth last week after schools opened only in remote format for pre-K through 12th.

The students in grades 7-12 remained in the hybrid model last week. They returned to face-to-face learning on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

“One of the things we did that was unique from other school systems was that we did a transition back from the holiday,” Iberville Parish Superintendent Arthur Joffrion said.

The transition was put into place to minimize the spread of new cases which may have come about during the holiday break.

“We’re hoping because we did that transition back, some of the cases that would’ve immediately come back in will have been prevented,” he said. “If someone who had a gathering in Christmas or New Year’s Day, there were ten days in between that day and any student returning to our campuses.”

The school board’s partnership with St. Gabriel Health Clinic allowed for free COVID testing for all teachers and students.

The moves came as some school systems, such as Livingston Parish, opted to remain on a remote format until further notice.

Joffrion remains hopeful that the parish will not have to resort exclusively to a remote format once more, but he said remote learning will remain an option.

“I can say that the majority of our students, five days of face-to-face instruction is the most effective learning model,” he said. “Some students can flourish in a hybrid model or a remote type of situation, so we have to take all of that into consideration.”

Throughout residential zones across the parish, the school system has not had a larger case number than the sector of the student population that has opted for 100 percent virtual, according to Joffrion.

He said the school system is not immune to the spread, but the majority of the cases in the school system have been related to community spread.

Teachers and administrators, meanwhile, have held things together well during what has been a surreal school year, the superintendent said.

“This is unlike anything any school system has ever had to face,” he said. “We’re talking about hurricanes, COVID, the country being in turmoil … we’re talking about all of those things having an impact, and we cannot be prouder of our amazing school leaders, teachers and support employees for all the work they’ve been doing.

“We still have all the mitigation protocol in place, and we’re battling a bit of COVID fatigue,” Joffrion said. “Not everyone wants to continue wearing the mask, but we continue to stress it.”

The school system continues to monitor the national and state COVID totals, but the totals for Iberville Parish and the cases in each school and program individually remain the most important data for the school system, he said.

“I think as a school system, we have gone above and beyond, we’ve been transparent in regard to the numbers with our employees and we’re not hiding anything, and we’re willing to make the hard decisions,” Joffrion said. “If we need to go back to hybrid or remote, we will make that decision, but we won’t make it based on emotion – we will make it based on the data tells us.”