By Cyndi Sellers
School will start on Aug. 7 in Cameron Parish, with face-to-face classes in all schools, said School Superintendent Charley Lemons at Monday’s School Board meeting. Cameron Parish’s small class sizes will allow spacing of students in classrooms, with a maximum of 22 per class. As of Monday, facemasks were being recommended but not required by BESE, but Lemons expected that to change later in the week. Distance learning is an option for parents who do not want to send their children to school at this time.
As long as the state remains in Phase 2, the class size will work. Odds of Louisiana returning to Phase 1 are “slim to none” Lemons said, but if it were to happen some school would have to reduce class sizes, requiring a platoon system with groups A and B alternating days or weeks, and using distance learning on the off period. In a parent survey, 70 percent favored A/B days instead of weeks.
Some changes will have to be made to comply with BESE guidelines. Meals will not be served in the cafeteria. It would take too long to clean the cafeteria between groups. Each school will make arrangements, but outside or classroom meals are possibilities. Dr. Holly Castile said these will not be cold sandwich meals. Menus are being prepared according to guidelines. Distance learning students may receive meals if the parents pick them up.
Recess, music and PE will look different. Physical education and music are considered high risk activities, so they may not involve active participation. Grids are being painted on playground areas to allow children to get outside but remain socially distanced.
As far a sports, the LHSAA has cancelled football until Phase 4. Other sports are wait and see, but Lemons said he is mostly concerned with getting back in the classroom at this time. Distance learning students enrolled in a particular school may participate in sports, but not homeschooled students.
Transportation is the biggest problem, Lemons said. Parents are being asked to bring their children to school if at all possible, since busses will be limited to 50 percent capacity. Busses will run two routes if necessary, but the more that come in personal vehicles, the fewer routes will need to be run.
Parents are asked to keep any child who has a fever or feels unwell at home. Thermal imaging cameras for each school and hand-held thermometers for each teacher have been purchased. Children found to have a fever will be sent home.
For those who opt for distance learning while in Phase 2, devices will be provided. Two online platforms have been chosen to give students educational opportunities, but there will be no teacher interaction. Students must stay in the program for a specified length of time. If Phase 1 goes into effect, teachers would interact on distance learning days.
Full details of the back-to school plan are available on the Cameron Parish School Board’s Facebook page and the website, camsch.org.
Lemons said he believes all teachers will be returning to classes. Teachers, administrators and supervisors worked together to create the plan. “The biggest thing will be flexibility,” Lemons said. “As we try things out, something else may be found to work better. We are asking parents to please be patient. We are working through this just like they are.”