by staff reporter Nora Drenner
Natchitoches Parish School students head back to school August 31. That was the decision made by the school board during a special called virtual meeting Friday, July 24. The school board initially kicked around the idea of a later start during its regular virtual meeting on July 14.
The reasoning behind a later start date is to give the district, including school administrators and teachers, additional time to prepare for the Safe Start plan for schools outlined by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). A story about the Strong Start 2020 plan and its accompanying procedures appeared in the July issue of Around the Town. Additionally, a draft of the Natchitoches Parish Schools plan can be found on the district website.
Superintendent Grant Eloi recommended that the start date for the 2020-2021 school year be pushed to September with the first day of school on Aug. 31. During the July 24 meeting Eloi offered two calendars for consideration.
Calendar A noted Eloi takes away the scheduled October fall break and February Mari Gras break with. On the other hand, said Eloi, calendar B keeps the October fall break and eliminates the February Mardi Gras break.
Additionally, parents have the option for virtual learning which would follow the same calendar. To date, said Eloi during the July 24 meeting, 2,100 have signed up for the homebased virtual program.
A lengthy discussion ensued with board member Tan’Keia Palmer expressing concern regarding traditional school. Instead, Palmer felt the district should offer virtual school only at least through the fall semester. The difficulty with 100 percent virtual noted Eloi was that an estimated 30 percent of the student population is unable to obtain an adequate internet connection despite the hotspot connectivity the school district has secured through federal COVID-19 dollars provided to school districts throughout the country.
In the end, the board members chose their own option C, which gives a long weekend fall break Friday, Oct. 9 though Monday, Oct. 12. Board Palmer was the lone vote against the calendar C option.
The Aug. 31 through Sept. 4 will be a soft opening with one-fifth of the student body attending one of those days for an orientation. The first full day for students is Tuesday, Sept. 8 following the Labor Day holiday on Monday, Sept. 7.
The deadline to sign up for the online school program is July 29.
In other business during the regular July 14 meeting, board members extended the grace period for uniforms through September. Additionally, principals at each respective school will handle uniform issues including dress down guidelines for those students who need additional time to obtain uniforms.
A virtual town meeting is taking place Tuesday, July 24, beginning at 5 p.m. on the NPSB Facebook page to address school start concerns.