Teachers across Louisiana “have expressed confusion and concern about safety in their schools” — according to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers — after the state’s education department announced a new statewide policy that makes quarantining after coming into close contact with someone with COVID-19 optional in schools.
“We can no longer ignore the unintended academic consequences of our students unnecessarily missing school,” Cade Brumley, Louisiana state superintendent, said in a press release Wednesday.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers said in a statement that they also want to see children back to learning in classrooms, “but we cannot prioritize test scores over the health and well-being of children, especially when there are better solutions available.”
“If school districts decide to adopt this new recommendation from the LDOE then we will undoubtedly see increased spread of COVID-19 in schools and more children and staff sick,” the organization said in the statement.
Last week, 150 Louisiana schools reported COVID-19 outbreaks and 1,650 positive COVID-19 cases among students, according to health department data.
Tia Mills, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, also said the dangers of COVID-19 and the Delta variant “outweighs the benefits of keeping students in a classroom setting” if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.
The Delta variant is known to be much more contagious among children than previous strains of the virus.
State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter said at the governor’s press conference this week that the under 18-year-old age group has emerged as the frontrunner for new COVID-19 cases, accounting for 24 percent of the state’s active infections as of Tuesday. Particularly, 5 to 17-year-olds have accounted for more new infections than any other age group every week since mid-August, according to health department data.
Seven Louisiana children have died since the fourth surge began in early July, and a total of 16 have died throughout the pandemic. All were unvaccinated, Kanter said.
Mills said teachers across the state have told her organization that they’re “extremely concerned” about the new policy.
“It’s not just impacting students, but educators as well,” she said. “Especially those with underlying health conditions, regardless of if they’ve been vaccinated or not.”
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