An exception to President Donald Trump’s ban on certain visas should allow 70 teachers into the state, allowing multiple schools to maintain their immersion and language programs, according to a Louisiana Department of Education release.
“These teachers will provide valuable world language instruction in immersion and early world languages programs in 16 school systems across the state,” the release says. “School systems can anticipate welcoming these new International Associate Teachers in the early fall.”
Uptown’s French-curriculum Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans faced a staff shortage of up to 35 percent of their teachers when the proclamation was announced. A spokesman for the state said generally, teachers are expected to arrive for a Sept. 1 start date.
Lieutenant Gov. Billy Nungesser and State Superintendent Cade Brumley were both pleased by the new exception. Nungesser’s office houses the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, which helps recruit teachers from abroad.
“The Louisiana Department of Education will continue to cooperate with our various stakeholders to help assure these invaluable programs remain an option for our children and families,” Brumley said. “Louisiana has a rich heritage founded on diverse cultures. Our immersion programs honor that heritage, while providing our children a world of opportunities.”
Trump signed the proclamation last month, casting the move as a jobs protection decision for U.S. workers amid high unemployment caused by the COVID-19 crisis, which has stalled the country’s economy and life as Americans know it. The State Department had already suspended many routine visa services earlier in the pandemic. But the order solidified the suspension of certain types of work visas, including J-1 visas — used for educational purposes by teachers, students and others — through the end of the year.
Those are the types of visas many teachers enter the state with, through CODOFIL’s recruitment program.
At the time, it appeared to threaten the placement of 72 teachers from abroad. Later, it was revealed that the French government had already requested the U.S. to fast-track visas for its teachers — otherwise it would work to find them jobs in-country amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, CODOFIL announced in a press release that the teachers qualified for an exception to the proclamation, which allows visas to be granted for “for existing exchange programs with a bilateral agreement, or for specialized teachers in accredited educational institutions.”
The exception will allow 49 French teachers and 21 Spanish teachers to work in Louisiana.
As recently as last week, state agencies were saying it appeared unlikely the teachers would make it in time for the school year to start. The latest announcement doesn’t make it explicitly clear when the teachers would arrive.
A department release said “School systems can anticipate welcoming these new International Associate Teachers in the early fall.”
In an email, department spokesman Ted Beasley said teachers can begin the process in the next few weeks.
“As a general timeline, we anticipate teachers scheduling their interviews July 27 – August 7 and then moving during the month of August for a September 1 start date,” he wrote. “Each case will be a little different – some Embassies might not open during this timeframe.”
Though the return to in-person classes is still unclear, schools are also making plans for virtual learning should cases of the virus continue to rise as they have been across the state.
Update: This story was updated with additional information from LDOE spokesman Ted Beasley.