School Board takes cautious approach to new “COVID Contact” quarantine proposal

In a major change, Louisiana Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley announced this past Wednesday, September 29th, that public school students should be allowed to remain in classrooms if they have close contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus. 

At the regularly scheduled meeting of the Jackson Parish School Board held on Monday, October 4th, Jackson Parish School Superintendent David Claxton told board members that for now, area schools would continue with the current “Covid Contact” Quarantine guidelines that have been in place. 

“We have received correspondance from the Department of Health and the BESE board that they don’t agree with this new, non-Quarantine decree,” said Claxton. “As result, in order to not expose our students to any undue risks and to limit our possible liability, we are not going to make any changes to our current policy until we get more clarification and information.”

The decision echoes the response the highly questionable proposal sparked among high-level, public officials including Governor John Bel Edwards and state health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter, who blasted the move.

“I think this is a bad call,” Kanter said. “I think it is dangerous. I think it is going to put kids at risk.”

Edwards also favors the quarantine guidelines in place today, according to a statement issued a few hours after Brumley spelled out the new option that read, “Quarantine is an important tool to slow the spread, especially in classrooms where children are too young to be vaccinated.”

Under the current guidelines students who have been in close contact, which is deemed to be within six feet for a total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period with a positive case of the virus, are typically sent home to quarantine for a prescribed period. 

The new plan would allow them to stay in school and get a free test for COVID-19, if the parents or legal guardian opts to pursue that path. Brumley said today’s practice is damaging learning capabilities as some students are being sent home multiple times, sometimes for weeks at a time. 

“We have families across the state expressing concerns about their children being quarantined multiple times,” said Brumley. “What we are trying to do is employ a common sense approach that returns control to the local community and allows them to make decisions in the best interest of their kids.”

The move comes one day after Edwards announced that his indoor mask mandate will remain in effect until at least Oct. 27th. Students who come into contact can avoid quarantine if both the infected party and the student wore masks properly, were not closer than three feet, remain asymptomatic or if they are fully vaccinated.

In additional action taken by board members Gerry Mims, Wade McBride, Ricky McBride, Gloria Davis, Dennis Clary and Calvin “Bart” Waggoner approved the following dispersements of ESSER III funds. (pending LDOE approval) 

1. Stipends and benefits for staff to provide after school tutoring in all Jackson Parish Schools for up to eight hours per week and to provide Saturday tutoring and ACT workshops for up to 12 hours per month. Employees are to be paid at a rate of $30.00 per hour for certified staff and $15.00 per hour for support staff. Additionally, bus drivers will be paid $70.00 for Saturdays and $17.70 per hour for after school tutoring. Tutoring is to be provided up to nine months per school year. All components of salary and benfits are not to exceed $75,000.00 per year for three years.

2. Payment to OWL (Outdoor Wilderness Learning) Equine Center in the amount of $47,250.00 to provide SEL (Social Emotional Learning) strategies to designated students in K-5 at Jonesboro Hodge Elementary School, Weston High School and Quitman High School.

3. Pay stipends of $30.00 an hour to certified staff to attend professional development activities outside of regular school hours. (not to exceed $50,000.00 stipend pay and $17,000.00 benefits)

4.Purchase the eD2i Data Package – Testing Data Software Package at a cost of $19,250.00 and the D2i professional development at a cost of $9,980.00 for a total of $29,230.00.

5. Hire a Student Support Coordinator for 3 years. This will be funded only for the duration of the grant.

6. Hire 15 Paraprofessionals (5 for Quitman High School, 5 for Weston High School, 3 for Jonesboro- Hodge Elementary School, 2 for Jonesboro Hodge Middle School) to target K-2, 4th and 8th grade for three years. This will be funded only for the duration of the grant.

7. Purchase Career Compass for Grades 6-12 at Quitman High School, Weston High School, Jonesboro Hodge High School and Jonesboro Hodge Middle School at a cost of $24,000.00. 

8. Tuition Reimbursement for staff attending college or enrolled in the ITeach program for certification purposes not to exceed $2,500.00 per semester per person for a total of $7,500.00 per year. 

9. Payment of $306,349.62 to Ross Bus & Equipment Sales for three Blue Bird Vision, V-8 busses, two (2) 71 Passenger and one (1) 77 passenger bus.

More items approved to be funded were:
1. Payment of General Fund bills. ($3,183,506.20)
2. Payment of Federal Program bills. ($234,590.19)
3. Payment of Food Service bills. ($125,624.21)
4. Payment of Sales Tax bills. ($847,495.84)
5. Payment of Special Education Fund bills. ($54,112.37)
6. Payment of District Maintenance bills. ($247,839.62)
7. Payment of Coaching Stipends
8. Payment to OWL (Outdoor Wilderness Learning) Equine Center in the amount of $16,500.00 for therapeutic riding sessions for student with disabilities at a cost of $8,250.00 for the fall session and $8,250.00 for the spring session, to be paid from IDEA funds. 

Surplus items to be recycled, sold or auctioned:
2013 School Bus #58 – IBAKGCPH9DF291578
2002 School Bus – 1HVBRABM42A918717
2001 School Bus – 1HVBBABM91H340530

In final action before adjournment, out of state travel to UCA Magnolia Cheerleading Championship
in Jackson, MS on Sunday, December 5, 2021 for the Quitman High School cheerleaders was approved It was further noted that the parents will be responsible for the expenses and will provide transportation.



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