Livingston Parish schools adding students in grades 3-5 to daily on-campus learning schedule

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FILE – In this Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 file photo, teacher Francie Keller welcomes the pupils of class 3c of the Lankow primary school on their first school day after the summer holidays in Schwerin, Germany. Despite a spike in virus infections, European authorities are determined to send children back to school. (Jens Buettner/DPA via AP, file)

LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. (BRPROUD)- The Livingston Parish Public Schools system will increase the number of students who can receive on-campus instruction five days a week, Superintendent Joe Murphy has announced. 

The change, which will be implemented next week, will add students in grades 3-5 to the list of those who can receive face-to-face, on-campus learning five days a week.

The district’s current Phase Two guidelines allows for students in “Group D” to attend classes five days per week at their assigned school campuses. Group D previously included students in grades Pre-K-2, students with significant disabilities participating in alternate assessment, students attending the ELEC Center, and employee’s children.

The district will open that same schedule up to students in grades 3-5 next week. Students in third grade will report to campus under the new schedule beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 2, followed by fourth-graders the next day (Thursday, Sept. 3) and fifth-graders the next (Friday, Sept. 4).

In a statement announcing the change, Murphy said it has been the district’s goal to add more grades levels to the traditional learning schedule in order to increase face-to-face instruction throughout the parish.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, schools have been hampered by how many students can be on campus at one time.

“We have always believed that face-to-face instruction is the strongest, best learning environment for our students,” Murphy said in a statement. “However, because of state guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic, as related to distancing and capacity restrictions, we’ve had to alter our preferred format to include virtual-only and hybrid schedules for a large segment of our population.

“But after much restructuring and reconfiguring by our staff, we believe we can feasibly increase the number of students scheduled to attend school on their campuses each day.”

Currently, the Livingston Parish Public Schools system is in Phase Two of its reopening plan, which mirrors the phase Gov. John Bel Edwards has set for the state. This week, Edwards signed a proclamation extending his Phase Two order an additional two weeks through Friday, Sept. 11.

Under Phase Two, Livingston Parish students are placed in one of four groups that determine how and where they learn. The hybrid model combines in-person and virtual learning. 

Prior to the change, students in grades 3-12 were learned through an A/B model, with children alternating days on and off campus. Group A students are in class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday, while Group B students are in class on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday.

Group C students are learning in the district’s 100-percent virtual model, made for those who fear going back to school out of COVID-19 concerns, Group D students receive face-to-face instruction five days a week.

Nearly 90 percent of the local school district’s 26,123 students have opted for a learning structure that includes on-campus options, Murphy said, noting that that’s one of the highest percentages in the Greater Baton Rouge area.

“We know that the high demand is indicative of our community’s confidence in the safe environments we have created at our campuses, as well as their value and appreciation for face-to-face learning,” Murphy said.

Under the new Phase Two plan, students in grades 3-5 will join those students receiving the traditional model of instruction on their home campuses over a three-day phase-in period. All three grades will be fully transitioned into the new schedule by Friday, Sept. 4.

“Adding grades 3 to 5 in our daily on-campus routines will not happen without some complications and transitioning, particularly as it relates to adding students to our busses and classrooms,” Murphy said. “But we do believe this is the best course of action, and we are committed to working through this adjustment to have it be successful.”

School leaders are asking parents of students in grades 3 to 5 who can provide personal transportation to do so to assist the district in managing transportation concerns, while under Phase Two guidelines.

In the “LPPS Start Strong” reopening plan, the school system states that busses can physically accommodate only half of its full capacity in adherence to guidelines from the Louisiana Department of Education.

Full bus capacity is 72 students, so buses will run with no more than 36 students in Phase Two.

“One of the biggest constraints we have in getting more students back on our campuses is the capacity limitations we have with our busses,” Murphy said. “We can shift space on our campuses, but the seating on our busses is fixed. The more assistance we can have from our parents, the better we can work around this problem.”

In his statement, Murphy thanked the district’s teachers, principals, and central administrative staff “for staying the course over these first days of the new school year to find solutions to what has seemed like an endless list of concerns and obstacles.”

“We know this is a difficult time for everyone involved – our students, our parents and our employees – but we are most appreciative of those who have been patient to work with us to make our system better,” he said. :We are not out of the woods by any means, but we’re making significant progress.”

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