Livingston Parish schools to remain in Phase Three for rest of semester, superintendent announces

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Livingston Parish Public Schools

(The Livingston Parish News) – The Livingston Parish Public Schools system will operate under its Phase Three guidelines through the rest of the semester, Superintendent Joe Murphy has announced.

Murphy made the announcement Thursday morning via the district’s social media channels, citing a letter from Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Sandy Holloway.

In a letter dated Nov. 25, Holloway authorized each school district to continue in their Phase Three plans, if they so choose, following the recent change to the state’s reopening plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a result LPPS will continue to operate in our current configuration until Dec. 23,” Murphy said. “This decision allows us to keep the vast majority of our students in a face to face setting until, at a minimum, Dec. 23.”

On Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the state would scale back to a “revised Phase Two” order following recent surges in new COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations.

The new order went into effect Wednesday, Nov. 25, and will remain in place for 28 days, through Dec. 23.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Edwards said he was leaving decisions on schools to local school districts. The governor also praised schools for their handling of the virus in a “difficult” school year.

In a statement released later Tuesday evening, Murphy said district leaders would review the newest order before making a decision for the rest of the semester.

Thanks to Holloway’s announcement, families have their answer.

“I would like to thank the governor and BESE President Holloway for acknowledging that our schools have done a good job of mitigating risk in our schools,” Murphy’s statement read. “Only through the efforts of all our employees have we been able to continue to fulfill our mission of educating our students during these difficult times.”

Livingston Parish schools started the school year on Aug. 7 in Phase Two of its “LPPS Start Strong” reopening plan, which is mirrored by the phase Edwards has set for the state. Under Phase Two, students learn through a hybrid of on-campus and online instruction.

The system transitioned more students back to a traditional model on Sept. 21 after Edwards advanced the state to Phase Three, which allows for face-to-face learning five days a week. The state was set to be in Phase Three until Dec. 4 before Edwards’ announcement this week.

The parish continues to offer a 100-percent virtual option for students who have health concerns regarding COVID-19. Last week, Murphy said there were 771 students in grades K-12 taking part in the district’s fully-virtual format while the others were learning on campuses. 

The Livingston Parish school system has roughly 26,000 students in 44 schools.

In recent weeks, the local district and districts statewide have seen a rise in the number of students and employees having to quarantine after coming into “close contact” with a positive case. Close contact is defined by the Center for Disease Control as being within 6 feet of a positive test for at least 15 minutes.

In Livingston Parish, there were 44 confirmed COVID-19 cases among faculty, staff, and volunteers for the week of Nov. 16-22 — tied with East Baton Rouge for second-most in the state — and 32 among students, according to figures from the Louisiana Department of Health.

Livingston Parish schools are currently on Thanksgiving break, which runs Nov. 23-27. In a video posted to the district’s Youtube page, Murphy implored families and community members “to be vigilant” during the Thanksgiving holiday “so our students can safely return to our campuses after the break.”

After the break, schools are scheduled to resume for three weeks before breaking for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Dec. 21 – Jan. 4. The break is set to begin two days before Edwards’ current proclamation expires. 

Students are scheduled to return for the second semester on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Read the entire statement from Murphy regarding the decision to remain in Phase Three:

“On Wednesday Nov. 25, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President, Ms. Sandy Holloway, authorized each local education district to operate using phase 3 guidelines, if they so choose, while under the governor’s revised phase 2 order in effect Tuesday, Nov. 24 through Wednesday, Dec. 23.

“As a result LPPS will continue to operate in our current configuration until Dec. 23. This decision allows us to keep the vast majority of our students in a face to face setting until, at a minimum, Dec. 23. Given the short nature of the month of Dec., the onset of testing to complete the second semester, and the need to continue to feed our students daily, this authorization makes those responsibilities possible.

“I would like to thank the governor and BESE President Holloway for acknowledging that our schools have done a good job of mitigating risk in our schools. Only through the efforts of all our employees have we been able to continue to fulfill our mission of educating our students during these difficult times.”

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