The Lafayette Parish School Board voted to fully scrap the district COVID-19 health and safety plan Wednesday, leaving district administrators to decide which items they want to keep and which ones they want to do with the rest of the school year.
The move came a week after several board members expressed concern of students who repeatedly miss school for close contact quarantine according to guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and complained about being unable to exercise greater control over local education decisions under state COVID-19 rules and guidelines.
Board member Justin Centanni presented the proposal, saying the goal is to keep students more consistent in school after board members heard from parents and caretakers frustrated that their children have been repeatedly pulled from school to quarantine.
Current CDC guidelines require a five-day quarantine for close contact by a person tested positive and masked for 10 days after contact, with a test if possible on day five. Vaccinated students and staff or those infected within the last 90 days are exempt from quarantine but must wear a mask for 10 days.
“In a large number of cases, these are healthy children who lack school and lack education for no other reason than we force them to,” he said.
“It’s time to move on,” said board member Britt Latiolais, reiterating Centanni’s sentiment.
The Learn Lafayette plan outlined the district’s approach to COVID-19 safety and mitigation practices on most fronts, including setting expectations for personal hygiene, cleaning, meal service and quarantine after close contact.
Superintendent Irma Trosclair said district staff meet to review the plan and make decisions about which items remain in use. Using hand sanitizer and distancing as much as possible are examples of practical measures they will look to keep in place, she said.
Prior to the vote, Julia Reed, president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators, expressed concern that educators were exposed to legal risks without a formal district plan in place.
Lafayette High School Teacher Nick Richert requested that the scrub worn on campus be a continuing allowance provided to teachers and staff; Centanni said the decision would be left to Trosclair and her administrative team.
Broussard was the only board member to speak out against the change.
“I agree that something needs to be done. But to cancel this looks like we’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. We have a different plan, we do not have a better plan, ”he said.
Centanni said afterwards that giving COVID-19 response choices to district staff gives them more flexibility to make quick changes and does not prevent educators from respecting small details in the current plan that could prevent the return to a more pre-COVID school environment.
He also said that letting the changes take effect immediately, instead of setting the plan to end after a certain date, allows the district management to act as quickly as they wish.
“If the superintendent wants to notify the parents of quarantined children and say, ‘If your child shows no symptoms, please send them back to school,’ then we want them to be able to do that. If that is something that can happen. tomorrow morning, it’s something I wish would have happened … There’s no need to wait until the end of the week with some of these things.If we waited until the end of the week, it’s another three days for some students, ”he said.
Centanni asked Trosclair to provide a report at the next monthly board meeting on how the shift toward a pre-COVID operating style is unfolding.
The meeting came in the heels of one Monday COVID-19 briefing by Governor John Bel Edwardswhere he said he does not plan to include language on masking in a scheduled Thursday extension of state emergency order. Removing the language would presumably remove a clause allowing school districts to waive masking requirements only if they follow the CDC’s quarantine and isolation guidelines, freeing districts to make more relaxed quarantine decisions.
The voice of the board also came hours after the Louisiana Department of Health announced increased opportunities for how schools handle quarantines of close contacts. The first option is to continue with the current CDC quarantine guidelines for close contacts.
In another “test to stay” option, unvaccinated students can return to school without quarantine, but they must test twice during the first five days and mask themselves for 10 days.
A third option allows for zero quarantine or contact tracking after a student or staff member has tested positive but requires universal masking.
LDH’s guidelines for people with symptoms or who test positive have not changed.
What the Lafayette Parish School System will choose to do is among the discussions that are underway following the board’s repeal of the Learn Lafayette plan, officials said.
Contributing Writer Emily Woodruff contributed to this report.