Dealing with Covid-19 Issues in Schools

Posted on: August 17, 2020

Current as of August 17, 2020

Schools across Louisiana have begun to re-open or are scheduled to start in a few weeks. Each parish has its own reopening plan, which may include in-person or virtual classes, or a mix of both. It is important to check the reopening plan for your parish. Information on the reopening plans for the parishes our office serves can be found here. Within the parish plan, many schools will be making their own decisions about many things that can affect students’ health. What the students are exposed to is likely to affect others they live with.

The issues below can also apply to daycare or after-school programs.

This is information only, NOT legal advice. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is not currently providing legal assistance on these issues. If you need legal advice, you should talk to an attorney. You may be able to get assistance from one of the organizations listed in this article.

What are some examples of unsafe conditions at schools during the coronavirus pandemic?

Because of COVID-19, many common school activities are now unsafe. They may now spread the virus. Here are some things that can help spread the virus:

GENERAL

  • There are no pre-screening measures to get on the school bus or when entering the school, such as temperature checks or questions about COVID-19 symptoms.
  • There are no instructions to stay home for those who are sick or recently exposed to a person with COVID-19. Instructions should cover both staff and students.
  • COVID-19 informational signs are not displayed at school in highly visible locations (like school entrances and restrooms). Signs should describe how to stop the spread of germs.

MASKS AND OTHER MEASURES TO HELP STOP THE SPREAD

  • Teachers, staff, and students over age 8 are not wearing masks or other face coverings. These ages are usually in 3rd grade and above.
  • Students and teachers do not have scheduled hand washing times, particularly before and after activities like eating, using shared supplies, toys, or equipment, entering school, and before leaving school.
  • Students do not sanitize or wash hands on entering a classroom, or there is a line with people closer than 6 feet to do this.
  • Students are made to switch classrooms multiple times a day/ for every class period.
  • If teachers are changing classrooms, they are not washing or sanitizing their hands on entering the class.
  • Frequently touched surfaces such as playground equipment, door handles, or sink handles are not cleaned and disinfected after every use.
  • Drinking fountains are still being shared and not cleaned after every use.
  • There is no limit on sharing objects such as school supplies, equipment, or toys.
  • Lockers:
    • are still used,
    • are not regularly disinfected OR
    • that are close together are used by students at the same time.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

  • There are not 6 feet between students or students and teachers:
    • When at their desks
    • When moving in classrooms
    • When waiting to enter or leave the school, schoolyard, or cafeteria
    • To get into and inside bathrooms
    • In cafeterias
    • In lunch lines
    • If they line up to leave the class room, including for breaks, transfers, dismissal, to go to buses, etc.
    • On the school buses; students are made to share a seat with others or seats aren’t being skipped to add space between students; OR a full size the bus has more than 33 people on it at a time.
    • During PE or recess, if schools are still scheduling these activities (PE is not being required by the Louisiana Department of Education this year.)
    • During extracurricular activities such as sports and club meetings.

What can I do if I think my child’s school is unsafe?

You can file a complaint directly with the Louisiana Department of Education by emailing ldoecovid19support@la.gov.

You can also call the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office to file a complaint for any unsafe conditions at 800-256- 5452. Other ways of reaching the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office can be found here.

Your local school board, local, parish or state health departments, or your city, parish or state government may also be able to help. If you don’t know where to report, you can contact your city or parish councilperson, or state representative, to explain your concern and find out where to report.

My child has a disability or a condition that places them at high-risk from COVID-19. Who can I contact?

People of any age with certain conditions are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The list of these conditions can be found here.

If your child suffers from any of these conditions or has another documented disability, the following may be able to help:

  • The “504 Coordinator” for your parish’s school board.
  • Disability Rights of Louisiana may be able to provide legal assistance, and can be reached at 504-522-2337 or toll free at 1-800-960-7705. You can also apply for services here.

What if my child is in assigned to learn from home, but is not being given a good education?

Virtual learning will be safer for students. But it, too, has issues, including:

TECH ISSUES

  • Your child's school or your parish school board may say that you missed the registration deadline for virtual learning registration, or that you did not meet the requirements to get parish-provided tech to use for virtual learning.
  • Some students may not have access to Internet service or the devices needed for virtual learning (computers, laptops, etc.)
  • If you registered your child for virtual learning, your parish school board should have asked if you had the required equipment at home, so that it could be provided from the school board if necessary.
  • If your child is attending in-person school, but their class or school has to quarantine, your child should be offered virtual learning for the time they cannot attend school in-person
  • Information on Internet/broadband and telephone assistance can be found Assistance is not guaranteed and there are eligibility requirements.
  • The connection may be slow, may disconnect, or there may be a “lag” from what the teacher is showing and what your child sees.
  • The software used for virtual learning may be difficult to figure out and practice using the programs may be needed.

INSTRUCTION

  • Virtual learning may not provide individual assistance for your student, or some issues they are having with the material may not be noticed as easily.
  • Submitting assignments online instead of completing them in class in front of a teacher may make it harder to spot difficulties your child is having with certain skills or materials.
  • If your child’s school is using a “hybrid” schedule, where they are learning in-person on some days and virtually on others, this can cause a lot of disruption in learning.

If your student is experiencing these or other issues with virtual learning, it is important that you communicate with their teacher and school, so that your child does not face any disciplinary action or other consequences.

If your child has special needs and is not receiving proper accommodations, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) may be able to provide legal assistance. SPLC can be reached at 504-486-8982.

 

Additional Resources

RESOURCES ON DISCUSSING COVID-19 WITH CHILDREN

Guides for talking to your children about the virus can be found here.

Free activity book for discussing Covid with young children can be found here.

LEARNING TOOLS AND RESOURCES

The Louisiana Department of Education’s parent guide for virtual learning can be found here.

Free learning and activity resources can be found here.

The Louisiana Parent Training & Information Center (LPTIC) provides parents with information and training about supporting children with disabilities. LPTIC can also connect you with resources related to assisting children with disabilities during virtual learning. You can contact the Center by calling 800-766-7736 or 504-888-9111 or find a list of resources and activities here. Additional resources for supporting children with special needs can be found here.

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