Ouachita Parish Schools implement new safety measures as teachers return to work

OUACHITA PARISH, La. (KNOE) - As students finish off the school year from home, teachers and staff are returning back to the classroom.

Teachers are returning for the final week of the academic year at their respective schools, but there are some concerns about safety. (Source: KNOE)

Employees are spending the final week of the academic year at their respective schools, but there are some concerns about safety.

Teachers across Ouachita Parish Schools returned to their classrooms Monday for the first time in over two months to finish end of the year paperwork and other duties.

But before getting to this point, a lot of planning and new protocols had to be put in place.

“We met with principals, and directors and supervisors and tried to map out guidelines according to what the CDC recommended,” said Marsha Baker, Director of Safety and Security.

She says new procedures will only allow schools to open at 25% capacity, and they must maintain social distancing guidelines as recommended from the CDC. Teachers are also required to wear a face mask, have their temperatures checked, and hands sanitized at the front entrance.

One of the biggest concerns the district had to address included the handling of staff members that fall in the “at-risk” group related to COVID-19.

Baker says they’re working with those employees on an individual basis.

“Anyone that falls into the category of having a suppressed immune system or someone in their household that they’re caring for is ill, or maybe they’ve even been exposed to the virus and they have to stay home, we’re working with those on an individual basis,” said Baker.

She says the last thing they want to do is put someone into a situation that could compromise their health.

West Monroe Principal Shelby Ainsworth agrees. He says he has several teachers who are unable to come in this final week for those exact reasons.

“They made it very clear that if there are any individuals that are in the high risk category or are living with anyone with the high risk category they are basically excused from being at work,” said Ainsworth.

A final hurdle to cap off a unique and challenging academic year.

“You know it’s a mixed bag. They’re glad that maybe this part is over. But they’re hopeful for the future,” said Baker.