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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Louisiana’s fourth COVID surge has some parents thinking they should not send their kids back to school.

The Louisiana Department of Health is reporting more than 13,000 new COVID cases over the weekend and 65 more deaths. Nearly 3,000 COVID patients are in the hospital and of those hospitalized, 90% are unvaccinated.

NOLA Public Schools is reporting 299 positive COVID tests among students and staff. More than 3,000 students and staff are in quarantine.

Monday night, multiple parents and educators gathered outside of KIPP New Orleans Schools headquarters demanding that schools offer a virtual learning option. Those gathered are calling this school year a matter of “life or death.”

“Actually step up and care about the children of New Orleans. Give us choices and options,” said Ashana Bigard, a parent of two kids in New Orleans schools.

Doctors say the Delta variant is impacting younger kids.

“If we should use last year as a measuring stick for what we should do, there should not be a reason that we do not have a viable home learning option for our children,” said Dr. Ashonta Wyatt.

One teacher is worried the district will lose more educators.

“It’s week three and for teachers, it already feels like it’s week 52,” said Jeffrey Rebackoff, a third grade teacher.

According to the LDH, Orleans’ positivity rate is 12%.

“We want to make sure that our students are safe, we want to make sure our teachers are safe, the families are safe and that we’re being heard because we’re the ones on the frontline,” said Rebackoff.

NOLA Public Schools statement:

NOLA Public Schools understands parents’ concerns with in-person learning, but we’d like to reassure parents that we are following the science and the recommendations of federal, state, and local health experts.

Our data shows that our students are more likely to contract COVID-19 outside of school. For the past two weeks, many of our positive cases were detected before some of our schools opened for the new school year and our students and staff members even set foot on our campuses. Our children are safer in school, given our mitigation efforts (routine testing and mobile vaccination drives) and adherence to the NOLA-PS COVID Guidance.

As we’ve been doing since the start of the pandemic, NOLA-PS will continue to monitor the data that measure the impact of COVID-19. Our goal is to continue to preserve in-person learning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, the LDH, and the New Orleans Health department have analyzed the data and all agree the best place for children to be is in the classroom. The benefits include developing social and emotional skills, access to healthy meals and activities, and access to mental health support that cannot be offered through virtual learning. 

Distance learning (school work sent home or virtual learning on a computer) is available only in special cases of quarantines or to students who have health conditions. Families must gain documentation from a physician and provide it to their schools for review and approval. The educational programming provided will be determined by each school if and when accommodations are approved. Schools may provide families with the following form to request special accommodations.

KIPP New Orleans Schools statement:

The spread of Covid-19’s Delta Variant has surged through our city and community, which includes KIPP New Orleans Schools. KNOS has taken comprehensive actions to stop the progressive spread of this disease and mitigate its impact on our students and their families. We have been vigilant in our approach and continue to enforce multi-layers of protection such as mask requirements, hand hygiene and social distancing. We offer access to testing at our health clinics on two of our sites. We also hosted several vaccination clinics for those that are eligible. We believe vaccines and masks are our number one defense to combating the effects of the virus.  More than 86 percent of our faculty and staff members are vaccinated and each day the number increases.  Student and staff members that have been exposed are asked to quarantine as a precautionary measure, in accordance with the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health. Students who are quarantined will have access to virtual learning during their quarantine. Virtual learning will be offered in special circumstances. Parents should reach out to their school leader if they want to discuss this accommodation. Our goal is to keep students and staff healthy and in the classroom. KIPP New Orleans is currently following the guidance and process established by NOLA Public Schools for those students seeking virtual accommodations.  Our number one priority is the health and safety of our school community.