Coronavirus closes parish schools

NOTE: The Washington Parish School System has said that all 2020 graduations will be held regardless of when classes resume, or even if they do not resume. Seniors will graduate.

Update: Bowling Green School has extended its closure for an additional week. The new re-opening date is March 30. The school will announce any additional possible extensions of the closure later.

Update: Washington Parish Schools will stick to the original plan for Spring Break. So even though April 13 is the projected return date for Louisiana public school students, Washington Parish students will return April 20 following Spring Break.

Original article: Many parents of school-aged children in Washington Parish were stunned this past Friday afternoon when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that all public schools in Louisiana will be closed from now until April 13 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Parents who work and have no daycare options were faced with trying to figure something out quickly. Catholic schools are also closing from until April 13. On Saturday, Bowling Green school announced that it, too, will close and will re-open on March 30. The school will notify students if the March 30 reopening changes. The governor's proclamation closing public schools also waived the state law requiring a certain number of days of school per year, so even with the almost one-month break, schools will still end the 2020 school year at the originally scheduled time. There will be no added classroom days at the end of the school year.

The full text of Governor Edwards' order regarding school closures and other Coronavirus measures may be found at: https://gov.louisiana.gov/assets/ExecutiveOrders/27-JBE-2020-COVID-19.pdf One question was answered Monday when the Louisiana High School Athletic Association announced that spring sports, such as baseball and softball, will resume when Louisiana public schools return to session on April 13. (April 20 for Washington Parish, due to Spring Break.) This should allow time for the annual postseason tournaments to proceed, even if the timetable needs to be somewhat adjusted. This may be revised if the public school closure is extended beyond April 13. Earlier last week a statewide school closure seemed improbable, but the Coronavirus has spread rapidly in some areas of Louisiana, and officials believe that closing the public schools is the safest measure to take. State officials acknowledge that the sudden decision to close the schools will create hardships and confusion, but the governor felt that the state is facing an emergency situation and immediate action could not be delayed.

Frances Varnado, Superintendent of the Washington Parish Schools said, "The safety and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority. To ensure that our students are eating balanced meals and taking that burden off of families, we have started our drive-through breakfast and lunch pickups on Mon, Wed, & Fri from 10:00 until 11:15 at Enon Elementary, Franklinton Primary, Mt. Hermon, Thomas Elementary, and Wesley Ray Schools. We have also developed a library of educational resources on our website to assist families as they continue learning. We encourage you to visit our district website for these resources and for the most current information. Stay safe, wash your hands, and keep reading." Closing the schools was only one of the effects that Coronavirus brought to Washington Parish. It also resulted in a run on some supplies at stores in Franklinton and other areas. “It was like what we see before a hurricane,” said one Franklinton retailer. Over the weekend, President Trump appealed for Americans to buy only the supplies that they need right now, to prevent hoarding and disruption of the supply chain.

In another action, Gov. Edwards authorized Secretary of State Kyle Audoin to postpone the April 4 presidential primary. All other issues on the April 4 ballot, including the election of a Court of Appeal judge, are also postponed. And in a shocking disappointment to the many college basketball fans in the parish, the traditional NCAA post-season tournament, known as “March Madness” has been cancelled. During the day Monday, Gov. Edwards also ordered all restaurants in the state to become take out only (or delivery) for the next few weeks. This is to prevent large numbers of people from mingling in restaurants, possibly spreading the virus. He also ordered bars, gyms, and casinos closed.

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