Report: Teachers positive for COVID-19 days before school

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GRETNA, La. (AP) — Since returning to their classrooms to prepare for the opening of in-person instruction next week, a “handful” of Jefferson Parish teachers have tested positive for the coronavirus, a newspaper reported Wednesday, citing school officials.

The exact number of infections were not released by the Jefferson Parish school district, according to the report in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

“Since the return to school on August 3, there have been a handful of cases brought to our attention out of approximately 7,000 employees,” the district said Wednesday in a statement, according to the newspaper. “We must all do our part by staying home if we show symptoms of COVID-19.”

The district’s administration and most of the School Board support beginning with students in classrooms on Wednesday, Aug. 12, despite the fact that public schools in Orleans and St. Tammany parishes will wait until after Labor Day.

“The safety of our students and employees is our top responsibility,” the district said. “Jefferson Parish Schools continues to work closely with local public health officials to implement safety protocols that minimize exposure to COVID-19 in our schools. Following guidance from the (Louisiana Department of Education), we expect there to be cases in our schools throughout the year given the levels of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Two School Board members said last week that the parish should also wait until after Labor Day, and many teachers have also spoken out against what they say is a dangerous rush back to in-person learning.

Kesler Camese-Jones, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, said one major problems with the start of school as it stands now is that teachers, technology and facilities aren’t ready for either online or in-class learning.

There are webcams that aren’t there or don’t work, schools without running water and instructional materials that haven’t been distributed yet, among other deficiencies. She said her office has been slammed with calls from teachers who say there is no way they can be ready for either in-class or online learning next week.

“Our educators are up in arms; they are upset,” Camese-Jones said. “We have to delay.”

Camese-Jones said delaying until Labor Day would be ideal to help teachers get ready for online learning.

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