Concordia schools reinstate mask mandate as students return after MLK day

Published 2:54 pm Friday, January 14, 2022

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish Students will be required to wear masks as they return to school on Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. day holiday.

The school board voted unanimously to reopen schools during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night after schools were forced to close last week.

The closing came one week after students returned from their winter break and a growing number of students, teachers, custodians, administrators, school bus drivers, and other staffers were absent, largely due to COVID-19, school officials said.

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Superintendent Toyua Watson counted as many as 118 school staff absent at one time, not including central office personnel. By Thursday, 64 staff were still out of work for COVID-19 related reasons, whether they were exposed to the virus or tested positive themselves.

Thanks to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that reduce the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19 from 10 days to five, the board unanimously adopted a new policy that would allow 25 people to return to work immediately—as long as they have no symptoms and are fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications.

However, according to the CDC, they should wear a mask for the next five days and, should they develop symptoms, isolate at home and get a COVID-19 test. The only people who would not have to quarantine for COVID-19 exposure are anyone who is up to date on all of the recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters.

“I only ask that if we adopt these new guidelines that we keep the mask mandate in place so that we can ensure that with these lax guidelines that we keep teachers in classrooms,” Watson said. “Otherwise, I will be back here again asking the board to shut down because we have 118 people out.”

Board member Lisette Forman said a lot of people were not happy with the virtual learning option, adding that many at-home simply “aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be.”

If there happens to be another spike in absence, Forman asked the board to instead consider shutting down school completely and then making up the time at the end of the school year.

“I do not want our children virtual. … It’s just like we would do with the flu or an ice storm. Instead of going virtual, we shut down for five days and then make them up at the end of the school year.”

The board took no action on Forman’s recommendation.