66°
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
7 Day Forecast
Follow our weather team on social media

Schools still waiting on mask mandate decision, classes just weeks away

1 month 3 weeks 5 days ago Tuesday, July 27 2021 Jul 27, 2021 July 27, 2021 10:09 PM July 27, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE – Summer is winding down, and that means kids and parents are getting ready for school to start up, though what it will look like is up in the air.

Days before classes resume for many, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its masking guidance for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The CDC recommends "universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status."

West Baton Rouge Parish School superintendent Wes Watts is set to meet with school leaders Wednesday to finalize guidelines for when students return August 9. The system's masking policy will be among the items reviewed.

"We ave folks who think we should all wear masks," Watts said Tuesday. "We have folks who think nobody should wear masks, and those that are in between."

During an interview with WBRZ Wednesday, Watts could not offer final masking rules, but hinted at what he would expect if students returned this week.

"At this point, we're really just kind of following the language from the Governor and the Department of Education, which is to highly recommend masks," Watts said. "But again, it's a personal decision."

Watts says he's been hearing from parents and employees on both sides of the hot-button masking issue, but worries it would be difficult to backtrack after school programs throughout the summer proved successful and safe without masks.

"It's usually easier to start off more restrictive and then ease those restrictions," Watts said. "This would be one of those rare situations that I think right now, as of today, it may be easier to start off a certain way and if things don't change or if we do some issues with the virus, then we tighten up what we're doing."

Hours after the CDC released its guidance, St. Helena Schools announced masks would be required indoors across its campuses when the semester begins August 2. Previously, face coverings were going to be optional.

"At the end of the day, we have to make sure that [students] are safe and that they are healthy," Dr. Kelli Joseph, St. Helena's superintendent, said. "In order to do that, we have to follow CDC guidelines, we have to lean into the medical experts and that's exactly what we'll do."

"We're looking at our vaccination rates, we're looking at the level of positivity in our parish to make our determination of what protocols will be put in place,” said Stacey Dupre, the Chief Officer for support and special projects with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.

EBRPSS is waiting until Aug. 3, a week before school starts, to decide what COVID restrictions will be implemented. The biggest question is whether masks will be a recommendation or requirement.

"We're looking at our vaccination rates, we're looking at the level of positivity in our parish to make our determination of what protocols will be put in place,” said Stacey Dupre, the Chief Officer for support and special projects with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.

The Governor is leaving the decision up to individual school systems for now, but Tuesday afternoon his office said the latest CDC guidance was being reviewed. 

"I can assure you that the recommendations will not change when schools start, and that is that individuals indoors, unvaccinated wear a mask,” Governor John Bel Edwards said.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge was going to require unvaccinated students in third grade or higher to wear masks and practice social distancing but quickly changed to making mask-wearing optional.

Livingston Parish Public Schools has not made a decision as of Tuesday. Ascension Parish Public Schools tells WBRZ no changes in its mask policy, which states masks are only required on school buses.

Other capital area parishes are recommending face coverings, but not mandating their use, in line with Edwards' guidance.

Watts says if the state changes its recommendations, West Baton Rouge Schools will comply. He says buses will remain at 75% capacity for the school year.

More News

Desktop News

Click to open Continuous News in a sidebar that updates in real-time.
Radar
7 Days