School Board discusses Covid quarantining, virtual attendance and grading policies

Natchitoches Parish School Superintendent Grant Eloi presented board members with a Covid update during his report at the Committee meeting on Oct. 6.

“We’re having a lot of quarantines, but that’s a good thing,” he said. “Quarantines are contextual to the situation. If you get a letter saying your child is quarantined that is out of an abundance of caution. It does not mean Covid is at your school.”

What you can be quarantined for?

If a student comes to school with one major symptom (major persistent coughing, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell) they will have to immediately quarantine. Close contacts will also have to immediately quarantine. A “close contact” is anyone around you within 6 feet for an accumulation of 15 minutes or more. While masks are great and mandated for grades 3 and above, wearing one does not prevent you from having to quarantine.

If you’re quarantining due to symptoms you can go home and quarantine for 14 days or you can go get a Covid test, but the Office of Public Health requires a PCR non-rapid test to get you out of a symptom related quarantine. The rapid tests are having too many false negatives to be reliable. The other option is to get an alternative diagnosis from a doctor. Your doctor will provide documentation saying you have an alternative diagnosis like allergies.

You cannot test out of a quarantine due to an exposure to a known positive case of Covid. We are not contradicting things. It is very complicated. Call the Natchitoches Parish School Board to talk through your situation. The School Board can also put you in touch with the Office of Public Health.

The district is trying to be transparent through this process, but it can only share so much information due to HIPA. Since Aug. 24, eight school board employees have tested positive. They were all exposed through community spread and they were quarantined before they could potentially spread it to anyone else within the district. These cases happened outside of school, after hours. There were also 9 students (6 of whom were from the same three families). This was also from community spread, not school spread.

“If you are not feeling well, do not come to school,” said Eloi. “You are not going to be penalized for Covid related absences.”

Up for a vote at the Board meeting Thursday night, Oct. 8 is an item to approve an update to the Pupil Progression Plan regarding the district’s virtual attendance and grading policy.

Students who are in one of three categories by the sixth week of the nine week grading period (multiple failing grades, lack of participation, and no communication with teachers) will be put on academic probation. They can easily exit academic probation by showing marked improvement. At the end of the three week period, if they’ve not shown marked improvement they would lose the privilege of being in virtual school and would have to exit into face-to-face schooling.

“We want to give people a warning before we just pull the rug out from under them, which is why we’re giving them a three-week grace period,” said Eloi.

Another question that’s been brought up is whether or not to give students zeros. Students that do not complete a test or assignment will be assigned an “i.” This gives them an “incomplete.” They then have until the end of the nine weeks to complete that work. If it’s not completed by this deadline then they will receive a zero.

If a student receives a score anywhere below a 75 the district wants to allow them to Reteach/Retest. Grades shouldn’t be punitive. They should tell the teacher exactly where a student’s understanding is. Reteach/Retest helps students improve their situations.