By Jim Wilkerson
On Wednesday, Lincoln Parish Schools circulated a letter announcing that all parish schools will be closed Thursday and will not reopen until Tuesday, Jan. 18.
This news comes after Tuesday’s Lincoln Parish School Board meeting where it was revealed that much of the student population is sick.
“We’ve had a lot of sickness since coming back from Christmas break,” Lisa Bastion said, speaking on behalf of Superintendent Ricky Durrett who was out sick. “Right now, we’re currently at 23 percent of our student population who are out today sick.”
Bastion emphasized that the sicknesses are not all COVID-related.
“We have flu, we have strep, we have other viruses,” she said. “We have children who are positive [for COVID]. We have children who are quarantined. It appears that most of the quarantines are coming from exposure outside of school, in the home.”
This combination of outbreaks is not just affecting students, but also employees.
“Currently, we do have shortages with bus drivers and teachers,” Bastion noted. “Coaches are actually being asked to help drive buses in the mornings and afternoons just to get us through the day. And teachers are covering for each other on their planning periods and on their auxiliary times.”
Assistant Superintendent John Young expounded on the teacher situation.
“There are a lot of teacher absences…For instance, [Tuesday], we only had four to five teacher absences scheduled for [Wednesday] that were not filled,” Young said. “When we got to work [on Wednesday], we had about 20 spots that were not filled by subs.”
Young clarified that the Lincoln Parish Schools system was able to somehow manage and cover all Wednesday’s classes – mostly due to teachers covering one another. However, because of the strain of the last 24 to 48 hours, the administration decided to close down the schools for the remainder of the week.
“We’re going to close at the end of [Wednesday]. We’re going to have our maintenance crews disinfect each school…Some of them will work a little overtime to make sure we get that done,” Young said. “Also, we’ll have that period where there’s nobody and no traffic in the schools. Essentially, after we disinfect everything today, our schools will be basically free from anyone in them for five days.”
Concerning athletics, Young said that varsity sports will continue for the time being. However, junior high and elementary sports have been paused.
“With varsity basketball going on right now, it’s just a nightmare getting those games rescheduled. Plus, a lot of the teams we’re playing are having issues as well,” Young said. “So, it’s kind of difficult to stop it right now because you don’t know when a person may be able to play again. So, if they’re able to play, we’re going to play them.”
On another note, Young said that meals will not be served during the two days out.
“We’ve had a few people ask if we were going to be serving meals during these two days, but we’re not,” he said.
And finally, students will not be required to complete any of their assignments that are due on Thursday or Friday.
“In the past we’ve used virtual days where teachers would have synchronous and asynchronous classroom lessons,” Young said. “We’re not doing that. We just want people to go home, stay home, and stay healthy. And we have enough instructional time in our schedule to where we can take these two days off and not have to make those days up at the end of the year.”
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