A day after Gov. John Bel Edwards extended his public school closure order through the end of the academic year, the NOLA Public Schools district said it wants its schools to keep educating students. 

“Our expectation for schools is that they support students until the last day of school based upon their school programming and plans, with no school ending before May 15th,” a district statement said. 

Edwards’ order — which extended his previous one by a month — is now set to expire on May 15. At a press conference Wednesday, Edwards and acting State Superintendent of Education Beth Scioneaux explicitly said they expected districts across the state to continue education. 

“I want to be very clear about something. This is not the end of learning for this academic year. It’s just the end of students physically going to school campuses,” Edwards said Wednesday. “I fully expect that learning will continue.” 

With instructional minute minimums, mandatory attendance and other state educational requirements waived, districts essentially have the freedom to decide when to end school. But neither Edwards nor state education leaders want anyone to end school early. 

The Louisiana Department of Education surveyed parish districts last month and found just over half of them were providing remote learning opportunities. A second survey, that was due this week, is likely to be released Monday, according to a state spokeswoman. 

One month into the closure, NOLA Public Schools and its charters are still working to get laptops and hotspots to students. The district has confirmed all of its schools are offering remote learning.

The district did not respond to a question Thursday afternoon about how it would monitor charter schools to ensure instruction was occurring and whether that would factor into the charter school renewal process.

A return to classrooms this school year was “not going to be feasible” Edwards said earlier this week. Many schools would have had just weeks remaining in the year, including most in New Orleans.

“The majority of schools in NOLA-PS had their last day of school scheduled between May 14th to May 22nd, with only a few extending beyond that,” the district said. 

The rhetoric around Edwards’ order has focused on school buildings remaining closed for the academic year. His office did not immediately respond to a question about whether that applied to schools with last dates scheduled after May 15.

Plessy Community School CEO Meghan Raychaudhuri said the French Quarter school will keep teaching until their scheduled last day. 

“Plessy will continue to provide distance learning opportunities until our last day of school on May 15th,” she wrote in an email.

Other charter school leaders have also said they will continue teaching through their school years. 

Meanwhile, Edwards encouraged leaders to think beyond the next month and begin planning for the fall. 

“It’s not too early to start thinking about what school looks like next school year because we’re not going to have the vaccine in place,” he said. “You’re liable to see school taking place without large assemblies. You may see students coming in and leaving at different times so they’re not congregating waiting for buses.”

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...