As of last week, eight states had prohibited school districts from setting mask requirements, according to a tally by Education Week, with lawsuits winding through the court system in several of those states. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
The fall 2021 semester hasn’t been any easier for Webster Parish public schools than the 2020 school year.
Webster Parish Superintendent Johnny Rowland said his schools had the highest positive COVID-19 rates and more quarantined students, faculty and staff during the first four weeks of this fall than at any other point of the pandemic.
“We are far from being out of the woods with COVID-19 and its ramifications,” Rowland said during a Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting Tuesday.
To address the learning loss, Rowland said he took four weeks from summer vacation — which is now seven weeks long for Webster Parish public school students — and added them to the school year.
“What we have done now is break the (school) year up into nine week blocks, followed by an intercession period… to provide an intervention time there, instead of waiting until the summer,” he said.
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On Tuesday, many of those school system leaders — like Rowland — told the state school board how they used state dollars allocated to them to address learning loss from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We identified the 50 schools in the state that saw the most significant decreases in mastery levels and the 50 schools in the state that saw the most significant increase in unsatisfactory numbers… and set aside dollars for those schools,” Louisiana State Superintendent Cade Brumley said.
Over $5 million was allocated to those schools in total, Brumley said.
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Students across the board felt the effects of learning loss after the majority went through virtual or semi-virtual learning throughout the pandemic.
More Louisiana students in grades 3 through 8 and high school performed at an “unsatisfactory” level in math and English during the COVID-19 pandemic school year compared to the last full school year before the pandemic, according to assessment data from the education department.
Some systems like Webster Parish schools adjusted their academic calendar, while systems like Jefferson Parish schools implemented more after-school programs and free tutoring for their students.
Laura Roussel, chief academic officer of Jefferson Parish schools, said the allocated funds have allowed her school system to “implement a more robust, more strategic after-school acceleration program for their early-literacy efforts for students in grades K through 3rd.”
“We saw promising results,” Roussel said.
St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin said they also used the funds to provide for additional instruction time in the academic calendar and “intervention plans” for learning loss.
Patrick Jenkins, superintendent of the St. Landry Parish School District, said they will use allocated funds to provide for before-and-after school programming and tutoring for K-4 students who experienced learning loss.
“We’ve already begun identifying those students,” Jenkins said.
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