Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (8/28/2020)
JP Schools Family,
We look forward to seeing everyone again, whether in person or virtually, on Monday, August 31. This is a very different school year, and we’re doing everything we can to make it safe, enriching and, most of all, special for our students.
There is so much to be excited about as we return to school, including an opportunity to connect with peers, interact with our teachers, and foster new discoveries. While there have been many challenges to opening our schools, I truly believe that we will come out stronger and better for it.
I would like to take this time to update you on a few initiatives.
- Technology: This has been an opportunity to focus our efforts on how we can maximize technology in this era of digital connectivity. We have distributed nearly 13,000 devices to our students who need them for the start of school. We are becoming more efficient with the technology we have. As an example, we are becoming more effective with Google Classroom, which will usher our school system into a new era of virtual pedagogy. The growth we’ve had over the last few months will set us up for years to come.
- Communication: Since many of our students will be virtual for the start of school, strong communication with our families is ever important. We will continue to message and regularly update our social media pages and the website to ensure all our families stay well-informed and connected. We hope these communications will be uplifting and keep our JP Schools community united.
- Notifications: In addition to communication about student education, we also have a process for communicating COVID-19 cases in our schools. The safety of our students and employees is our top responsibility. We want to assure you that all families and employees will be notified when we learn of a positive COVID-19 case in your school. Having this information is critical for families to make the best decisions for their health and safety. We’ve recently updated our FAQ’s with our notification process.
- Support: We know that as the year begins, you will likely have questions or need support to help your student be successful. If you or your student have questions about academics or homework, please reach out to your teacher or school directly. If you or your student have technology issues related to coursework, please reach out to our Parent and Student Helpdesk Support at 504-365-5304. The Helpdesk is available Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
- Health and Safety: As we prepare for Monday, we want to relay that our schools are taking every precaution necessary to keep our students and employees safe. We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19. You can help us by having a conversation with your child about how they are feeling and checking their temperatures before they leave for schools. If your child is sick, please keep them home from school and seek consultation from a medical professional. We rely on our families to reinforce proper mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.
- 2020-2021 Academic Calendar: Due to Tropical Storm Marco and Hurricane Laura and the need to postpone the first day of school for students, we will need to update the academic calendar. Please stay tuned for more information.
Thank you for your patience, support and flexibility as we safely reopen our schools for the 2020-2021 school year. We have an opportunity to be a part of history. If we continue to lead with love and keep our students at the center of everything we do, we will offer them the best opportunity for success.
Dr. James Gray
Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (8/21/2020)
Dear JP Schools Families,
We are ready and excited to see you, both in-person and virtual, for the first day of school on Wednesday, August 26. Just as a point of clarification, the 26th will be the first day of school for ALL 1st - 12th grade students. Hybrid students following the B schedule are expected to report for their first day virtually.
We would like to update you on the progress of our professional development that we are providing to our educators on the new delivery methods to ensure our students get the best quality education we can give during this pandemic. During the four day professional development sessions, the intent is to ensure our teachers have the tools and training needed to start the school year successfully. I met with many teachers over the last few days, and the consensus is that they felt better prepared to teach virtually and in-classroom after completing their professional development sessions. It was a pleasure to see so many of our educators back in the classroom.
As a quick update from our last communication regarding technology, we are still waiting on several thousand Chromebooks to be delivered and shipments are arriving daily. We are combining the devices currently in our inventory from last year with each new shipment, and prioritizing distribution to our virtual and hybrid learners first. We are prepared to start the school year with the devices we have on hand and will continue to distribute more devices as we receive them.
One of the biggest differences for our employees and in-person learners this year will be having to wear a face covering throughout the day. We created a video on the importance of mask wearing. If your child is not accustomed to wearing a mask, this is a great opportunity to start practicing with them. As a reminder, we’re asking everyone to be diligent about temperature checks, wear face coverings and be mindful of social distancing. For a safe return to school, we all need to work together to follow the new health and safety protocols.
Thank you for your commitment to returning students to school safely. We look forward to welcoming everyone back next week.
Dr. James Gray
Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (8/17/2020)
Dear JP Schools Family,Since we announced last Monday that we would be delaying schools until August 26, we’ve been working diligently to make this time count. Thank you for your patience as we work through reopening our schools safely while providing the best possible learning environment. Based on the new start date, we also have an updated academic calendar. With over 11,000 respondents, 60% voted for the calendar that includes a fall break and a longer school year.We’ve heard varying perspectives from our teachers and parents over how we reopen schools. We’ve taken all of this information in, assessed the status of our reopening plans, and put our JP Schools Family at the heart of our decision-making. I understand the delay caused an inconvenience for some families who were planning to send their children to school in-person last week. To those families, thank you for your patience and flexibility.Our decisions have not been hurried, but based on guidance and information from federal, state, and local authorities. When we receive new information, we must adapt and act quickly. Consequently, our plans may change.We all share the common goal of providing the best possible education for our children given the circumstances. In the spirit of this shared interest, we want to be open about where things stand and the challenges that lie ahead. When teachers returned to their classrooms on August 6, we made rounds and met with our educators to hear their concerns. We picked up on themes, and we realized we needed to reassess some of our protocols. In full transparency, this is the current status on several items that we are working through.
Unfortunately, there is no script for how we deal with this pandemic. Since the beginning, I have told our team that as long as we keep our students at the center of every decision, we will continue to move forward in the right direction. We are committed to lead with love as we work collaboratively to ensure improved outcomes for our students.It’s easy to get weighed down by this pandemic, especially in an era of the 24/7 news cycle. Our children are watching and absorbing how we react to this new context. This pandemic is a defining moment in all of our lives, and especially for our young ones still in their formative years. If we model good behavior, positivity will radiate. This is an opportunity to teach our students how to handle difficult times, how to cope and to support each other. It’s critical that we maintain a positive disposition, not just for our own mental health, but for everyone around us.Thank you for bearing with us as we navigate this new context. With your support and understanding, together we can deliver the best education for our students. Eventually, after this pandemic is over, we will all come out stronger as a result of our work.Regards,Dr. James Gray
- Devices: Our goal is to have a device for every K-12 student, but that will not happen in time for the first day of school on August 26. This spring, we purchased over 32,000 Chromebooks to supplement devices currently in our inventory. School districts around the country did the exact same thing, and we have been at the mercy of an overwhelmed supply chain. To date, we have received 2,800 of these 32,000 devices. We surveyed our families to identify who has their own personal devices, who has already received a device, and who needs a device. For the time being, we are prioritizing distribution of computers to virtual learners and hybrid students with the greatest need. Some schools have distributed devices, and other schools will share specific information on the distribution process.
- Connectivity: We have been working closely with Cox Communications to ensure all students have access to the internet, including an expansion to their Connect2Compete discounted internet package for low to moderate income families. We are working with all our families to assess internet connectivity and have a plan to close the connection gap.
- Supplies: We have supplies, including cloth masks, liquid soap, paper towels, sanitizer and more, to ensure that every child receives instruction in a safe environment. On Monday, August 10, we delivered more than 3,544 gallons of hand sanitizer and 6,463 face shields to schools. Every classroom teacher is receiving an initial gallon of hand sanitizer, a washable face covering and a face shield, as well as disinfectant, gloves and paper towels on a recurring basis. Additionally, every bus driver will receive hand sanitizer and protective goggles, as well as disinfectant, gloves and paper towels on a recurring basis.
- Additional Safety Measures: The primary concern we heard from teachers regards their safety, and we have responded with additional layers to protect their health including face shields and COVID-19 Rapid Testing for symptomatic employees. We are also working on an agreement to have a Certified Nursing Assistant in every school to help monitor the isolation area in the event a student shows COVID-19 symptoms.
- Professional Development: We’ve said time and again that school looks different this year. Some students will learn in a virtual classroom, some students will follow a hybrid model, and some students will follow a traditional model with in-person learning. Starting August 20, we’re providing a variety of teacher professional development sessions. These sessions will cover our different instructional approaches as well as how technology can enhance instruction by embedding content, pedagogy and virtual tools.
- Virtual Jefferson: We wanted to give our families a choice about the best instructional model for their child. Due to the large number of families who opted for Virtual Jefferson, we had to make some adjustments to our original plan in order to ensure that our students all have the opportunity to connect with a teacher and receive high-quality content every day. This will include virtual students learning using synchronous, live learning to allow them to follow a normal school schedule as closely as possible. Like an in-person school day, there will be self-paced opportunities and work time to give students a break from the screen. It is important to note that students will still be expected to follow a school schedule and be engaged throughout the day.
- Potential Closures: The reality is that we have to be prepared for any level of closure at a moment’s notice. We are prepared and have plans in place for the eventuality that there is a positive COVID-19 case in our schools. One case does not necessarily warrant a school closure. With the guidance of health officials, we will determine when classes, grade levels or entire schools need to be sent home to learn in a 100% virtual setting. This can be disruptive for families, but we must do everything we can to protect the health of our students, teachers and employees.
Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (8/10/2020)
Dear JP Schools Family:
Jefferson Parish Schools is dedicated to providing the education our students deserve to succeed in life and make our world a better place. While student learning is our top priority, our top responsibility is making school a safe environment for our students and employees. To make these decisions, we have relied on guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Louisiana Department of Health, and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).
We can’t do this work alone, so we teamed up with Ochsner Hospital for Children to provide additional resources to support a healthy and safe return to school for students, teachers, and employees. During visits to schools, Jefferson Parish School Board members and district officials have spoken with educators, inquired about their concerns, and determined if there were other opportunities to leverage Ochsner’s resources. After these visits and various conversations with our families and employees, we worked with Ochsner to add an additional layer of safety for our students and employees.
Today, we are excited to announce that Ochsner will make rapid 15 minute testing available for symptomatic Jefferson Parish teachers and employees, beginning August 26. Having rapid testing results available for our symptomatic teachers and employees allows us to quickly determine if an employee has COVID-19 and take the appropriate precautions.
Since COVID-19 rapid testing will not be available until August 26, we have decided to delay the opening of school until August 26. We remain diligent in our efforts to provide a safe environment, and this will allow us to add another layer of safety for our employees and students to ensure that we mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In the coming days, we will work through the details of this process.
Since we set out to reopen schools, safety has been our top responsibility. We’ve said many times that the situation is fluid and we would need to be flexible and make adjustments as we received new information and guidance. We understand that this will cause some disruptions to families who were ready to send their children back to school in-person this Wednesday. The decision was not made lightly, and, ultimately, we felt this delay was the best way to ensure a safe and successful return to school. We apologize for the short notice and the burden this may cause, but please know we are excited to see your child the week of August 26.
We will use these two weeks to continue to strengthen our plans and offer additional professional development for our teachers, particularly around teaching virtually. The better we can support our teachers, the better off our students will be. Additionally, we are working with our vendors as we continue to receive student technology and curriculum resources on a rolling basis. As they arrive, we will continue distributing these materials to our families.
We appreciate your support, patience and participation throughout this process, and we will continuously keep you informed.
Together, we will do our best to provide a positive and safe educational environment for our students - one that benefits them socially, emotionally and academically. Our teachers, support staff, and leaders are key to this plan, and we are grateful for their commitment to our students during these unprecedented times. The work we’re doing now will ensure the best possible outcome for our students. I’m proud to do this work alongside you and know that together, we will be the champions our students deserve.
Dr. James Gray
Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (8/7/2020)
We can’t wait to welcome you back to school in the classroom and virtually! Please watch the video below for a message from Dr. James Gray, Superintendent for Jefferson Parish Schools.
As the superintendent of Jefferson Parish Schools, I am excited to serve you in this new role. Our principals and teachers have worked all summer to prepare for your child to return to our care. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back. Since we closed our doors in March, we’ve been hard at work preparing our schools to meet new safety protocols.
You’ve heard me say many times that back to school looks different this year. We will have to do things differently to keep one another safe. We will have daily temperature checks and wear masks. We will have to keep distance for our friends and teachers. We will wash our hands more frequently.
While some things will look different, I want to spend a little time to assure you that many of your favorite things will still be the same.
Whether in the classroom or virtual, your friends will be here.
Teachers will be kind, compassionate and excited to see you.
Kids will still run and play.
School will still be a place to discover new things, grow, and learn.
No one realized last Spring that COVID-19 would still be affecting our communities this fall. Unfortunately, this has become our new normal for the time being. We all need to do our part to stay safe and take care of each other. We all need to keep growing and learning together through this pandemic.
At JP Schools, we are committed to provide the education students deserve to succeed in life and make our world a better place.
We look forward to welcoming you back and seeing you soon.
Additional resources for the JP Schools community:
Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (8/3/2020)
JP Schools Family,
As we prepare to reopen our schools, we recognize a time normally marked by excitement is tinged with uncertainty. We’re here to make you feel as comfortable as possible with this new experience, and we’re eager to see your students on their first day, whether that is virtually or in-person. Living amongst a pandemic has become our new normal, and we must do our best to provide a positive educational environment for our students - one that benefits them socially, emotionally and academically. Our teachers and support staff are key to this plan, and we are grateful for their commitment to our students during these unprecedented times.
We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions, live at jpschools/startstrongfaq, that will be updated on a regular basis. It is our hope that these questions can clear up many uncertainties and offer a better understanding of what the classroom experience will look like. We will make adjustments as we receive new information and will keep our families and employees informed along the way.
The long hiatus has made even more apparent the critical role schools play in a community, not only for academic instruction, but for the social services our families need. Student learning is our top priority, and safety is our top responsibility. Jefferson Parish Schools has always taken pride in doing what is right for students. Although there will be challenges, we have an opportunity to show others how to provide a safe environment for students, teachers and employees.
We thank you for your support, patience and participation in making the start to school as smooth as possible. Together, we will be champions for our students.
Dr. James Gray
Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (7/24/2020)
JP Schools Family,
We know that returning to school this year is going to be different, which will require us to think and respond differently. However, we can overcome anything if we have a plan and work together.
As we shared in Start Strong Jefferson, the safety of our students and employees is our top responsibility, and student learning is our top priority. Our school leaders are preparing site-specific plans that align to our Start Strong plan and the Louisiana Department of Education’s reopening guidance. We know many of our families and educators have unanswered questions about what reopening schools will look like. While there are still details to be worked out, here’s what we do know:
We will implement additional safety protocols to keep our people safe. These protocols include daily temperature checks, face coverings for all, social distancing and static grouping to the maximum extent possible, frequent handwashing, increased cleaning and sanitation, and restricting visitors.
We will provide our educators and schools with personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning and disinfecting supplies. We are working with government, community, and business partners to provide additional PPE and supplies.
We will support families to meet their technology needs. We are working through a plan to achieve 1:1 device capacity for K-12 grades. We ask that you please have patience as we work through the high volume of device requests. Before school starts, schools will prioritize distributing devices to families who need them the most.
We will provide our families with an all-virtual option. We had approximately 25,000 families register for Virtual Jefferson. We are working with families and schools to verify the data, and we will then work with school leaders to finalize logistics for instruction and staffing. Those logistics include finalizing which teachers are providing virtual and/or in-person learning. Our educators will receive the support, resources, and training they need to be safe and successful. Our students will be taught using the same curriculum and standard of excellence.
We believe in collaborative decision-making. We are in constant communication with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers to ensure we are addressing our educators’ concerns. Additionally, we are working closely with Jefferson Parish Government officials and our state and local public health officials.
We need your feedback along the way. We encourage input from our students, families, educators, and community members about our reopening plan to ensure we can best support our students, families, and educators. Please share your input here.
We are constantly reviewing our plan. Given the fluid nature of this public health crisis, we will adjust our plan as we get new information, data, and guidance. We will also keep you informed along the way.
We know these times are uncertain, but what is certain is that we will always make decisions that put students first. While we have a long road ahead to meet our 2024 goals, this year is going to be another school year marked by progress in JP Schools. We have outstanding leaders, teachers, support staff, and district staff who will ensure our students get the education they deserve. Thank you for your continued patience, trust and partnership as we navigate the reopening of schools. Together, we will be champions for our students.
Dr. James Gray
Latest on Reopening Plans Updated (7/13/2020)
JP Schools Family,
As we plan for a Start Strong Jefferson, our priorities are to ensure the safest teaching and learning environment for our students and staff and maximize safe, in-person opportunities. We are utilizing guidance from the Louisiana Department of Education, the Louisiana Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Jefferson Parish officials. We are considering the diversity of our students’ needs. We are working to be responsible stewards of our resources. We are using input from our families, staff, and community members. We are preparing for multiple methods of teaching and learning given the fluid nature of this pandemic. As we get new information, we will adjust accordingly.
In our efforts to provide ongoing updates with our stakeholders, this message contains important information:
- Targeted Survey Results: In addition to our end-of-the-year stakeholder planning survey in May, we conducted more targeted surveys of staff and caregivers in June. We will use the results to continue planning for the start of the year. View the attached results or visit jpschools.org/stakeholdersurvey.
- Academic Calendar Survey Results: We conducted an academic calendar survey last week. Based on 10,305 responses, 68% of stakeholders want to push the first day of school for students back from August 6 to August 12. This would provide our educators with additional days before students report to implement additional safety guidelines and prepare for the start of the year. The School Board will vote to approve the proposed calendar Wednesday, July 15. Additional details about the calendar survey results are in the attached presentation or viewable at jpschools.org/stakeholdersurvey.
- Virtual Jefferson: As we’ve shared, we are considering three school instructional models for the start of the year: traditional, hybrid, and virtual. Families can register now for Virtual Jefferson, our at-home virtual learning option that will support K-12th grade students throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Based on the number of families who register for Virtual Jefferson, we will determine staffing, support, and logistics. No matter the school instructional model, our educators will have the support to be successful and prepared.
- Virtual Jefferson Registration Extension: Based on feedback from our stakeholders, we decided to extend the registration window for Virtual Jefferson from July 16 to July 22. This will allow families to see the full Start Strong Jefferson plan on July 20 before making the best decision for their child(ren).
- Key Start Strong Jefferson Timelines: We want to share some key timelines related to Start Strong Jefferson:
Virtual Jefferson registration opens
Jefferson School Board special meeting to vote on new proposed academic calendar
Publicly share Start Strong Jefferson plan with families, staff, and community
Virtual Jefferson registration closes
(extended from July 16 to July 22)
First day for teachers and staff
First day for 1-12th grade students
(pending JP School Board approval)
First day for PK-K students
(pending JP School Board approval)
We know the 2020-2021 school year will be like none other before. There will be challenges. There will be successes. Given the fluid nature of this pandemic, there will be adjustments made to our plan as we get new information. When we work together, we can be nimble, creative, flexible, and reflective to meet the needs of our students. They need us, now more than ever.
Jefferson Parish Schools
Latest on JP Schools Reopening Plans for 2020-21 (Updated 7/2/2020)
We will be ready to educate students on day one. That’s our commitment. At the July 1 school board meeting, we presented an initial reopening plan, Start Strong Jefferson. The plan is still in progress and will be further developed based on CDC guidance and input from stakeholders.
Below are a few key points from the Start Strong Jefferson presentation at the July 1 school board meeting, which you can view here:
- The safety of our students and staff is our top priority.
- Our reopening plans will be fluid and routinely adjusted to reflect updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- We are considering three school instructional models: traditional, hybrid, and virtual.
- We are working to maximize safe, in-person opportunities for our students to engage with their teachers.
- While participation in learning was optional this spring, attendance and participation in learning will be mandatory come August.
- We will be prepared to immediately shift to 100% at-home virtual instruction should school closure become necessary during the school year.
- Families will have the option to choose a 100% at-home virtual learning model.
- If we conduct virtual learning, synchronous (teacher-led) learning will occur via Google Meet and asynchronous (self-paced) learning will occur via Google Classroom. Support and professional development will occur to ensure teachers, staff, and families are supported with this learning.
- Currently, students are scheduled to return August 6. However, in order to prepare for a safe and successful start, we may need to adjust the academic calendar. We will send a stakeholder survey next Monday, July 6 for you to weigh in on some academic calendar options.
- Should we proceed with a virtual or hybrid school instructional model, we know some of our families may need support with technology. Chromebooks have been or will be ordered to achieve 1:1 device capacity for K-12 grades. We are working with our vendors to obtain the devices as close to the start of the school year as possible.
- Based on feedback from our staff, we want to continue training and support so our teachers and leaders are prepared for the possibility of a hybrid or virtual model.
"Every student in our district will have access to a great education starting day one," said Interim Superintendent and Chief Operations Officer Lale L. Geer. "We are working collaboratively with our school leaders to plan for a successful and safe start, and we will continue using input from our families, staff, and community stakeholders throughout this process.”
Our plans are fluid and may change. We will continue to communicate with you throughout the summer, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure a Start Strong Jefferson.