Big changes are on deck for St. Charles Parish Public Schools students – notably in the areas of extra-curricular activities, performing arts and athletics – as Louisiana entered Phase 3 of coronavirus reopening last month.
Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling said the transition into Phase 3 helps the school system’s enrichment and afterschool activities by increasing participation capacity with social distancing to 50 individuals.
As outlined in the school system’s Family Reopening Guide, Oertling said school and instructional schedules will remain the same as they are now for Phase 3 to accommodate operating both school-based and virtual learning systems. Although bus capacity increases to 75%, in Phase 3, no adjustments to current bus routes will take place in case the need arises to return to Phase 2.
Oertling said the school system has been fortunate and thankful for the ongoing support received from our students, employees, families, the School Board and the community.
“All stakeholders have embraced the current circumstances and changes in order to allow our schools to operate with the necessary safety measures required,” he said. “I am so proud of the way our students, employees, parents and community have come together to make opening our schools a reality. I sincerely thank everyone for the grace, understanding and patience they have shown us during these last six months as we prepared and continue to operate our schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He added that extracurricular activities are extremely important in providing a well-rounded education for students.
“St. Charles Parish Public Schools prides itself on being a Triple A School District focused on academics, athletics and the arts,” he said. “Participation in extracurricular activities leads to increased student engagement, improved classroom behavior and academic achievement. Our students are not only offered a number of extracurricular opportunities in our school system, but they excel in these at the district and state level. This is an important part of a student’s school experience and we recognize the value and importance extracurricular activities play in a student’s life.”
Coordinator of Gifted, Talented, and the Arts Joshua Martin said in following Phase 2 guidance, some extracurricular programs chose to rehearse outdoors so that they were able to sing, play or project with safety measures in place.
“When indoors for instructional time, arts classes have focused heavily on theory and pedagogical practices in their disciplines, while prioritizing the building of relationships and reinventing arts education in our socially distanced society,” Martin said. “Under the most updated guidance from the Louisiana Department of Education, school arts programs are allowed to rehearse both indoors and outdoors with proper safety measures in place. These safety measures have specified precautions for programs using new PPE for safer practices, including face masks with slits for woodwind players and bell covers for instruments.”
Martin said as per the Office of State Fire Marshal’s OpenSafely guidelines for event venues, “indoor live entertainment, which includes but is not limited to singing [and] wind blown instruments […] is not allowed at this time.”
He added the district is exploring performance options for students that follow state guidelines and mitigate risks while allowing for the invaluable opportunities the performing arts bring to our community.
Administrator of Safety, Security and Athletics Kade Rogers said all fall sports have been approved by LHSAA.
“We are currently working with the high schools on plans and protocols for safety measures and fan attendance at sporting events,” Rogers said. “We are also developing plans for middle school athletics to resume. Guidance from the LHSAA, LDH, CDC, National Federation of High School Sports and the State Fire Marshal are being used to develop plans for students and fans to have a safe and enjoyable game day experience.”