Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

School district foregoes new option

Lincoln Parish to wait and see on new ‘parent choice’ model
Friday, October 1, 2021
Article Image Alt Text

The Lincoln Parish School District will not be adopting the newly announced “parent choice option” for quarantining Louisiana students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19, at least for now.

On Wednesday the Louisiana Department of Education announced a departure from its previous quarantining requirements: when students are deemed a “close contact” of a positive case of the respiratory virus, the parents or guardians will be allowed to decide whether to quarantine them at home or keep them in school, but only if the local school system opts into the change.

Lincoln Parish will be sticking with the previous rules.

“As of right now, we are going to keep everything the same,” Chief Pandemic Officer Lisa Bastion said. “After we get more information, we may opt into it at some point.”

This school year, a Lincoln Parish student deemed a close contact must quarantine at home for 10 days unless he or she is fully vaccinated or has had COVID within the last 90 days.

Those 10 days can be shortened to eight if the student tests negative within a certain window. Further, a child doesn’t qualify as a close contact if “both indi viduals are engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitted face masks and school prevention strategies (correct use of mask, physical distancing, increased ventilation) are in place,” according to the district’s policy.

“We’re being careful of who we quarantine and not trying to over-quarantine if they’ve had a mask on and other things,” Superintendent Ricky Durrett said. “We feel like we haven’t had big outbreaks, and what we’re doing is working to keep kids in school. That’s always our goal.”

Durrett said the Louisiana Department of Health and the doctors with whom the district has consulted are continuing to recommend the previous quarantine standards.

“We’re going to stick with what the health professionals have told us for now,” he said.

According to The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, soon after State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley announced the new option, Gov. John Bel Edwards voiced his opposition to the change, as did officials with LDH and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, that have previously worked with Brumley’s department on COVID policy for schools.

Brumley said in a release that one of the main reasons for the change is many districts are seeing students repeatedly have to go into quarantine, undercutting the consistency in their education.

“We can no longer ignore the unintended academic consequences of our students unnecessarily missing school,” he said.

Durrett said Lincoln Parish has largely avoided repeat quarantines of the same students.

As of Wednesday, the local district had 123 students at home — 66 in quarantine as close contacts and 57 with positive cases of the virus.

Combined, that’s 2.23% of the total student body. The current positive cases make up 1.03%.

Close to half of the positives, 25 of them, are Ruston High School students. Durrett said contact tracing points to recent off-campus home coming activities as the likely culprit of spread.

The COVID-related absentee rate in the parish has stayed between 2-3% for roughly the past month, with the largest rate for the school year thus far coming on Sept. 3 at 3.5%.