School closer to normal, but some issues remain

Staff Report

After nearly more than a year and half, life on school campuses is beginning to seem a little more normal for students, according to the head of the Iberville Parish School District.

The executive order Gov. John Bel Edwards signed last week to end the mask mandate for most school activities has brought some semblance of school life prior to the start of the pandemic in spring 2020, according to Iberville Parish School Superintendent Dr. Arthur Joffrion.

Iberville Parish School Superintendent Dr. Arthur Joffrion

“Our classrooms and schools feel more like a normal school environment than they have in the past, back before the coronavirus,” he said. “The compatibility is back in place, there’s more monitoring of classroom instruction, along with more focus on teaching and learning.”

The removal of the mask mandate has not changed all the protocols, however.

Safety precautions and protocols remain intact, including frequent handwashing and hand sanitizers in all schools.

As part of the compliance protocol issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, schools still require social distancing to an extent.

While much of the COVID-19 protocol has become almost second nature to older students, the return to the traditional school setting has been tougher for students from kindergarten to third grade.

“We’re dealing with more trauma. For example, our kids in second grade have never had a normal year of school,” Joffrion said. “The kindergarten year got cut off because the first year was quarantines, so we’re dealing with trauma.”

Much of that comes from the time they spent at home, away from communal settings.

“But look at your seniors … they haven’t had a normal year since they were freshmen and sophomores, and even this year we didn’t have a traditional homecoming dance, although we had some of the traditional activities,” Joffrion said.  “It’s tough on kids and parents,”

The return to the classroom last year has also exposed learning gaps.

“The isolation has led to an inability to communicate normally” Joffrion said. ‘To be back in the classroom, receiving instruction, kids in high school consider their primary mode of communication social media.

“There are definitely learning gaps from what they missed, and in addition to that they had to recognize what is really big issue, as well as the quarantines,” Joffrion said.

Broadband played a role in providing academic continuity for students during the first year of the pandemic.

While it provided continuity, it also showed the divide n broadband availability throughout the parish, particularly in the north end of the parish, Joffrion said.

“They’re making progress on expansion of broadband, but there’s definitely a divide – some communities have it, while some communities still have difficulties gaining access,” he said. “It’s something we have to face.

“But I still personally and professionally believe face to face interaction with teachers and peers in classroom still the best mode of education,” Joffrion said.