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Superintendent's Update: September 16

Dear JP Schools Family,

Yesterday, school leaders began returning to our buildings. Today, teachers and staff at our tier 1 schools returned to prepare for Monday’s reopening. By the end of next week, we expect almost half of our schools to be open. In a little more than two weeks, we hope to be fully operational. While this timeline may change due to repair delays or other factors outside of our control, this is all just weeks removed from one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit our state. As educators, we know how to rise above obstacles. We will continue to move forward in Jefferson Parish Schools.

Condition of Schools
I’ve appreciated working with teachers, staff, and administrators to develop proactive solutions as they’ve returned to schools and administration buildings this week. The opportunity to come together has been an emotional lift. As you return to your building, don’t be surprised to find areas still in need of minor repairs and attention. Contractors are approving buildings as they meet safety, environmental, and operational standards. With this in mind, please note that although our buildings are safe, they may still require attention after reopening.

Calendar Survey
Please take a moment to complete our calendar survey before the deadline Friday at noon. We’ve taken your feedback to develop three calendar options. I understand families and employees use the school calendar to plan vacations, appointments, and other events important to their personal lives. That’s why we want to make these adjustments as soon as possible. The deadline for this survey is tighter because we want to bring it for Board approval at the September 20 meeting.

The calendar was developed by the same calendar committee that develops our regular academic calendar. This committee is composed of a wide-range of stakeholders, which provides insight into how our calendar choices impact children, employees, families, and the community. It’s common for there to be disagreements about our annual calendar, and that certainly may be the case now as we make adjustments due to a natural disaster. We’ve included these differing viewpoints into our proposed adjustments and maintained our focus to safely engage kids in quality instruction.

Instructional Minutes Waiver
I want to clear up any confusion on an instructional minutes waiver. School systems do not have the authority to waive instructional minutes. This is done by the governor, at the request of the state. The state has shared with us that our current circumstance does not meet the requirements for a waiver. The state mandates a minimum number of instructional minutes students must meet each school year. An additional five days worth of minutes was originally built into our calendar this year, and we have far exceeded that cushion as our schools will be closed for at least 14-23 days due to Hurricane Ida.

JP Schools Donations Webpage
Many individuals and organizations have expressed interest in supporting our recovery efforts. We are grateful for this support and are making it easier for stakeholders to support our children, employees, and families. This week we launched a page on our website with online forms for donations, as well as a list of needed supplies.

I’ll close with news that has been well received and reminds us why our work matters. Thirty-two JP Schools students have been named National Merit Semifinalists. This honor places them among the top 1% of high school seniors in the nation. Twenty students were awarded from Haynes Academy and 12 received the honor from Patrick F. Taylor Academy. You can see a full list of our semifinalists on our website. I am proud of our students for not only receiving this distinguished academic award but also for setting a strong precedent for their collegiate career. This academic achievement will serve as a framework for success in their future endeavors and would not be possible without the support of our JP Schools family.

Thank you for your dedication to our children. We all play a role in moving our students and our community forward.

Dr. James Gray