Plessy Community School is housed at the historic McDonogh 15 School in the city's French Quarter. (Marta Jewson/The Lens)

A staff member at Homer A. Plessy Community School has tested positive for COVID-19, pushing staff training online, CEO Meghan Raychaudhuri confirmed Monday.

“I can confirm that a staff member tested positive for COVID and that we have transitioned to all virtual professional development,” Raychaudhuri wrote in an email Monday morning. 

NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. had already announced school would begin virtually for students, but some New Orleans schools are still holding in-person staff training. Many schools hold staff training for several days or weeks prior to the start of school when students report. This training is called “professional development.”

Lewis said staff would be expected to report to buildings, but that decision is ultimately up to independent charter schools. The Orleans Parish School Board passed a resolution last week “urging” charter schools to offer teachers protections.

Throughout the pandemic, the district has declined to specify what should trigger a school to close. 

Raychaudhuri said the school surveyed staff and 64 percent of respondents “reported being comfortable returning for in person professional development.” They also had had the option of working from home, she said.

Raychaudhuri said the school followed safety protocols. 

“For staff who chose to work in-person at our facilities, we implemented the safety protocols recommended by NOLA Public Schools, the CDC and BESE. All staff members were provided with hand sanitizer and all sessions were provided in large spaces with small group sizes,” she wrote. “Masks were mandatory, temperatures were taken upon arrival and seating was aligned with social distancing requirements.”

The school has two campuses, having recently taken over Joseph A. Craig Charter School in Treme. When students return to classrooms, most younger students will attend the school’s other building — McDonogh 15 in the French Quarter — while 5th through 8th grade and pre-kindergarten students will be at the Craig site.

In the spring, before Gov. John Bel Edwards closed schools to prevent the virus from spreading further, a handful of city schools closed for cleaning after “possible community exposure” to the virus. Edwards’ initial month-long order was later extended through the 2019-2020 school year. 

Now, each district throughout the state will decide if it will open for in-person classes, online learning, or a mix of the two. Throughout the next month, New Orleans public school students will learn from home. 

“School staff at Plessy have had the option of working from home during professional development and that option will remain as we begin distance learning,” 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...