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East Baton Rouge Parish public schools will continue in-person learning despite a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and more than 700 teachers calling out sick in protest.
Superintendent Sito Narcisse said in a statement to the Louisiana Illuminator that the school system’s current COVID-19 mitigation measures – including mandatory masking, weekly mandatory staff testing, deep cleaning, vaccine and booster clinics – have been sufficient.
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The East Baton Rouge branch of the Louisiana Association of Educators called on its members to conduct a sickout to pressure school administrators to move virtual learning. But Narcisse said a return to online learning would also place an unnecessary burden on working families of students and staff who would have to stay home with their children.
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“If the last few years have taught us anything, we know that our students thrive when they are with us in classrooms, supported by professional educators and collaborating with their peers,” Narcisse said.
On Wednesday, 760 teachers and staff members called in sick across the district. The school system has about 6,000 total employees.
The school system never considered moving to online learning, spokesperson Alex Stubbs said. She explained that not all student needs can be met through remote instruction.
“A lot of students come to our school sites for services, whether that’s special education, counseling,” Stubbs said. “They’re coming to us for all kinds of special services.”
Several elementary and high schools in Baton Rouge have already moved to virtual learning following reported COVID-19 outbreaks.
In addition to taking all parish schools online, the teachers union demanded East Baton Rouge schools extend isolation time for students who test positive for COVID-19 from five to 10 days. It also wants school staff to work remotely where possible until the parish’s COVID-19 positivity rate falls below 10%.
East Baton Rouge most recently reported a 28% positivity rate. Louisiana set a new single-day record for COVID-19 cases Wednesday with more than 17,000. State health region 2, which encompasses the Baton Rouge area, accounted for the largest share of those cases with 31%.
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