BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana schools will remain closed through the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic, Governor John Bel Edward announced.
The state's 1,300 public schools, which were ordered closed on March 16, will finish the school year using online classes and stay shuttered until at least the 2020-21 academic year Edwards said. The decision was urged by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and other departments.
Edwards noted that remote learning will continue and schools will still provide food for students.
Guidance on how schools should handle remote education, grading, the possibility of summer school or even the start of the next school year was scarce
"I just want everybody to know were working very hard to address those needs and making sure every student in the state, regardless of the circumstance they find themselves in or the geographic location they live, we want them too learn as much as possible and minimize regression," Edwards said.
Schools were ordered closed one week after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the state. The original opening date was set for April 13, but that was pushed back to April 30 when Edwards extended Louisiana's stay-at-home order.
On Tuesday, Edwards made the announcement to again push back opening schools until the state had a better handle on the pandemic.
Louisiana has 1,303 public schools in 69 school districts.
It is unclear if private schools will do the same. So far, they have followed the governor's lead.
The order does not come as a surprise. Last week, Edwards had said there was a "really good chance" that he would make the decision to close schools after the state's major education powers drafted letters calling on him to do so.
Besides BESE, Edwards received recommendations from the Louisiana Department of Education, the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Louisiana School Board Association to keep schools closed.
BESE leaders noted that sanitizing schools takes time, and there was "no reasonable ability to complete the necessary cleaning in time to return to school before mid-May."
Mike Faulk, Executive Director of the Association of School Superintendents, told WWL-TV that the organization surveyed leaders in all 69 public school districts. All but "three or four" superintendents believe canceling the rest of the school year is the best move.
Some schools have implemented distance or online learning in the interim, though there is no consensus as to how well it is working for all students.
In the wake of school closures, districts across the state have provided hundreds of thousands of meals for students and families who rely on school breakfasts and lunches.
New Orleans Public Schools also purchased 10,000 laptops to help students continue their educations from home.