NOLA Public Schools' West Bank headquarters. (Marta Jewson/The Lens) Credit: Marta Jewson / The Lens

Senior administrators from the NOLA Public Schools district will meet with charter school leaders Tuesday “to discuss how to plan for” potential impacts from the coronavirus in the city’s public schools, according to a Monday afternoon press release

The virus, which has resulted in six deaths in the United States according to the Washington Post, has also closed schools in Washington, according to the Seattle Times.

The virus has not yet been confirmed in Louisiana, but at a press conference Monday afternoon, Governor John Bel Edwards said its spread to the state was essentially inevitable, according to a report in The Advocate. “We do believe it’s a matter of when, not if that will happen,” Edwards said.

In the city’s all-charter, decentralized school district, dozens of independent charter schools control their own school calendars and many administrative decisions, such as whether to cancel school. Most schools have been on a weeklong break for Mardi Gras and returned today. 

On Monday morning, The Lens asked the district its plans in the event the virus spread in the city and caused students to miss school. The district did not answer specific questions about any plan, what it was requiring of charter schools or what would happen should prolonged student absences run into state standardized testing that begins at the end of the month. 

A statement released by the district Monday afternoon said the district’s senior leadership will meet with school leaders Tuesday “to discuss how to plan for and manage any impacts the COVID-19 may have on Orleans Parish public schools and to ensure families are receiving the most accurate information regarding health-safety and education.”

The Louisiana Department of Health’s website states the “risk to the public is low” and advises members of the public to stay home if they are sick. 

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers specific advice to schools, including updating emergency operating procedures, monitoring absenteeism, encouraging hand washing and cleaning thoroughly. The department also noted schools should “Discourage the use of perfect attendance awards and incentives.”

District spokeswoman Tania Dall wrote in an email that more details would be provided Tuesday. 

“NOLA Public Schools plans to share a more comprehensive update following the connect with school leaders tomorrow,” she wrote.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...