ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana Parish has a plan to reopen schools Aug. 9, but a world-wide surge in COVID-19 cases makes that plan subject to change at any time, Superintendent Hollis Milton told the School Board on July 20.
“Flexibility is key to everything we do,” Milton said after going through a long list of contingencies for starting a new year, related to both the pandemic and other factors unique to West Feliciana.
At the high school, for instance, some construction work will be going on when students return, including finishing touches to the exterior of the new structure. By mid-August, most of that work will be done.
The new high school gym will be finished in mid-November, which will necessitate moving equipment into it and the start of work to convert the old gym to a career and technical education facility.
Motorists will find workers widening Bains Road off U.S. 61 between the high school and middle school campuses, he said.
Workers also are continuing work to install artificial turf at the high school football stadium, with the expectation that the field will be ready for the first home game on Sept. 3, Milton said.
Based on current state Education Department guidelines, wearing masks at school will be optional, except on school buses, Milton said.
School buses, according to federal law, are considered a form of public transportation, and students, drivers and aides will be required to wear masks, including students traveling on athletic buses, Milton said.
Supplies of face masks will be available on buses, but students are asked to bring their own.
The schools will not administer temperature checks, but parents are being urged to monitor their children’s health at all times. Frequent hand washing will be required, and the schools will attempt to observe a minimum of social distancing throughout the school day, Milton told board members.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, water fountains will again be out of service, and students are urged to bring reusable water bottles that can be refilled at on-campus bottle refill stations.
Unlike last year, the school system does not plan to offer totally virtual classes online, Milton said.
He said teachers did a heroic effort last year to plan and conduct virtual sessions for children whose parents wanted them to stay at home, but the “loss of learning” from virtual classrooms is becoming evident nationwide, Milton said.
He said the schools will have the ability to offer temporary educational assistance to students who may have to quarantine at home because of exposure to the virus.
Bains Elementary and Bains Lower Elementary schools also will offer before- and after-school care to students whose parents have unusual working schedules, Milton said.
Although West Feliciana has a high rate of coronavirus vaccinations, including among school employees, the rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus could result in overnight changes to current plans, Milton said.
On other matters, the board:
- Approved budgets for the coming school year, based on expected revenues of $37 million in revenues and an equal amount of expenditures. The major expenditure in the spending plan is $28,859,280 for salaries and benefits.
- Agreed to advertise for bids to add turning lanes and other road improvements on U.S. 61 and Marydale Road for the new Bains Elementary School, which is under construction. The project has a $1 million budget.
- Tabled action on bids for renovating the historic Julius Freyhan school building for a community center and museum. Milton said the bids were over the amount budgeted for the project, which is being funded by the state. He said he will recommend action after the architects and Julius Freyhan Foundation officers confer with state officials.