Jefferson Parish school system announces two-week delay of fall classes

(This article was Reposted from NOLA.COM )

Facing mounting pressure from teachers who said crowded classrooms aren't safe and that online learning materials aren't ready, the Jefferson Parish Public School System said Monday it has agreed to delay the start of fall classes for two weeks, until Aug. 26.

Students had been set to report Wednesday. Teachers have been in their classrooms for a week already preparing.

The decision to delay was made after school district officials learned they would have access to rapid coronavirus testing through Ochsner for the Aug. 26 date, schools Superintendent James Gray said. Tests will be available for symptomatic employees, he said. 

"We were just informed of this information," he said Monday. That, combined with the "concerns expressed by teachers" led officials to settle on the two-week delay.

"Our teachers need to be in the right state of mind in order to educate our children," he said. Also, he noted, some safety supply deliveries are still arriving.

Many teachers have complained that they do not have all the necessary materials, such as workbooks, webcams and laptops, and that there is no way they can safely teach children in classrooms with so many new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

School Board member Simeon Dickerson, who unsuccessfully pushed for the School Board to delay starting schools until after

Labor Day, said Monday's announcement was a step in the right direction.

"I’m glad that not only my concerns but the community’s concerns didn’t fall on deaf ears," he said. "I think we should be delaying for a month rather than two weeks to be thoroughly prepared."

Kesler Camese-Jones, the president of Jefferson Parish's teachers' union, said the delay is welcome news for many members, some of whom didn't have enough personal protective equipment or information about how to teach part of their classes virtually.

"The bottom line is we don't have what we need to be ready for our students," she said. "With all of the changes and all of those things not in place, there were a lot of concerns."

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