This week, the Louisiana Superintendents Association requested Gov. John Bel Edwards to close schools across the state for the remainder of the education year. The following is a statement from Ethan Melancon, director of education policy at the Pelican Institute, in response to this request.

“While we understand Louisiana’s leaders continue the fight to contain COVID-19, our state’s parents need assurance that their child’s education will not be another casualty of this virus.

As Governor Edwards and our state leaders consider this significant decision, we recommend the following:

  • Before any decision is made, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Department of Education (DOE) should release a specific plan for how and when students across the state will return to school for remediation of the time spent out of the classroom.
  • Any closures considered should be limited to physical school sites only.
  • The Department of Education, with guidance from BESE, should require all districts to offer virtual learning, where possible. For those unable to meet this requirement, a high standard of distance instruction should be required, with standards in place.

It would be unacceptable for the status quo to proceed. The 44 percent of districts not currently providing adequate distance learning opportunities must rise to the challenge to ensure the continued learning and education of the children entrusted to them. Real limitations exist in the form of access to internet and computers, and a concerted effort will be required to meet these challenges. But, we cannot allow them to derail an entire state’s educational progress.

Louisiana is a resilient state, and we’ve always managed to innovate in the face of disasters. For example, Orleans Parish has already found a way to provide virtual learning through 10,000 laptops and 8,000 mobile hotspots. Right now, many teachers, parents, and education leaders are working hard to keep kids fed, engaged, and learning, and their work should be celebrated and replicated as quickly as possible. During this uncertain time, we must come together and lay the groundwork to provide a stable education environment for our students and their parents.”