Superintendent's Update: September 9
Dear JP Schools Family,
Thank you for your support as we navigate through this difficult time together. Even with buildings closed and many of your personal lives turned upside down, you show up for children, colleagues, and families. You continue to be a cornerstone of this recovery for the entire parish. We have all witnessed public outpourings of love, whether through meal giveaways or donation drives at schools across the system. I know there are also many private moments when we are lifting up one another. It takes a special person to serve in education, and those same traits are what call us to be part of the solution when times are tough.
Condition of Schools
We have completed initial assessments at all of our buildings. Our main goal has always been to reopen schools as quickly as possible. This is why crews at our schools have prioritized internal cleanup and recovery. As the inside of our schools are made suitable for return, crews will begin shifting to cleanup and recovery of the school grounds. When our buildings reopen, they will be safe for students and employees. At this time in our recovery, we are prioritizing safety. Our schools and classrooms may not look the same, but they will be safe for instruction. Please remember that the average age of our buildings is close to 60 years. As with any renovation project, we will likely identify additional work that needs to be completed.
With the initial assessment of our buildings complete, we will release a tentative reopening schedule tomorrow. Our current plan is to reopen schools in multiple tiers. Due to the varying nature of damage at our schools, some buildings will take longer than others to meet safety, environmental, and operational standards. We will share the tentative reopening dates and the schools included in each tier tomorrow. Given the significant damages to their buildings, our three schools in Grand Isle and Lafitte will not be part of the general reopening tiers. We will communicate reopening plans with those employees and families directly and prior to any public announcement.
In order to give school-based employees time in their building prior to welcoming students back, they will return to work two days prior to reopening with students. Anything we announce will be tentative because it relies on our contractor’s timeline for releasing school buildings back to us. The contractors will release buildings to us as our schools meet safety, environmental, and operational standards.
Return to Work
We’ve made it a priority to inform employees and families as soon as possible about returning to school and work. One of the first steps in welcoming children back into our schools is resuming normal support operations at our central office. This morning, we notified 11 and 12 month central office employees that their return to work date at the office is Monday, September 13. Our 11 month school-based plant staff is also returning Monday to focus on debris cleanup and recovery of their school grounds. As we resume normal operations, we will continue to provide appropriate and timely notice to employees and families. It’s also important for employees to check-in regularly with their supervisors to ensure they have the latest work-related information.
Possible Calendar Changes
While we have additional minutes built into our school year, the days we have missed exceed that cushion. The state mandates a minimum number of instructional minutes that school systems are required to meet each year. Any waiver of these minutes would have to be requested by the state and approved by the governor. We are currently evaluating options to make up the days missed due to Hurricane Ida. Our goal is to ensure our children receive the benefits of a complete academic year.
We’re going to work hard and support one another, but we also know this will not be a perfect reopening. Extenuating circumstances could cause plans to change. We are working diligently to ensure a safe reopening of schools as quickly as we can. Consequently, we will meet the needs of our students and community. I know that together, we will move our students forward.
Dr. James Gray