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LAE VP Delivers Remarks on LA School Reopening Guidelines; Offers Association's Recommendations


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Hearing to Finalize School Reopening Recommendations
RE: Testimony of D’Shay Oaks, Vice President, Louisiana Association of Educators

My name is D’Shay Oaks and I’m a 6th grade teacher and the librarian at Vidalia Junior High in Concordia Parish. I currently serve as the Vice President of the Louisiana Association of Educators. I’m here today on behalf of about 18,000 public school teachers and other dedicated public school professionals as we discuss the plan to return to school in just a few short weeks. It is our opinion that we aren’t yet ready to reopen, but regardless of whether we return in 3 weeks or 3 months, our focus should be ensuring that adequate measures are taken to protect all individuals learning or working in our schools. So, when is the right time to reopen? That’s for our school leaders, medical experts, and you to decide. What I’m here to advocate for today is a thoughtful and very careful process for doing so. A team of LAE members have compiled several recommendations that we feel will help ease our educators’ and our parents’ anxieties about school being back in session. We feel these recommendations, which comply with CDC Guidelines, incorporate the minimum standards needed to help protect the lives of Louisiana's school communities. Here’s what we suggest: 
    
1.    All schools shall offer distance learning instruction until 14 consecutive days of no new COVID-19 cases.
2.    Beginning in third grade, all students shall be required to wear face masks at all times.
3.    Classes for students in second grade and younger shall be limited to 10 students per class; students will have the option to wear masks.
4.    If any student or teacher in a static group test positive for COVID-19, that group shall quarantine for 14 days.
5.    If a student becomes ill or develops a fever during the school day, the student is to be isolated and picked up by a parent or guardian, and that student is to quarantine for 14 days or return after five days with a negative COVID-19 test result.
6.    Each school district shall establish a designated testing site for every 3,000 students and school employees - one easily accessible within 30 miles of the school, if none exists then access to mobile testing will be provided through partnerships with mobile testing sites.
7.    Establish a School Health and Safety Commission consisting of BESE members, union leaders, and school principals to investigate any non-compliance to safety policies and procedures.
8.    Each district shall submit a sanitation plan to be approved by the LDH, including a required and posted sanitation schedule and checklist for each room of the building. The plan shall consist of routine cleaning schedules for frequently touched surfaces such as light switches, doors, benches, railings, and bathroom fixtures.
9.    High-traffic and high-touch surfaces shall be disinfected with high frequency, this includes both playground and athletic equipment.
10.    Cleaning staff should wear gloves when performing cleaning activities.
11.    The school system will have a 1:1 student ratio for shared learning tools with internet connectivity for every student in grades Pre-K - 12th grade, as well as a plan to issue these devices to students for use at home. If internet access is unavailable, the school system will ensure students have a reliable phone line.
12.    Temperature checks will be done before crossing the threshold of any school property, and after 5 hours on campus, as well as if there are signs of any other COVID-19 symptoms.

I support these recommendations, and I hope you will, too. We urge you to do everything in your power, and what is morally right to protect our students, educators and professional staff. Again, as a representative of the educational staff working in Louisiana's schools, I urge you to amend your proposed COVID-19 Minimum Standard Guidelines to ensure that ALL of our school professionals and students are adequately protected from this deadly virus. We understand what a difficult task that is, but we simply cannot wager any percent of life against economic advancement. Now, I leave my faith in you -- the representatives of children who live in your communities as well as the committed educators who give their all for their educational experiences -- trusting that you will make it your top priority to protect their lives at all costs.


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