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

At a Thursday training session, NOLA Public Schools officials said the district will be able to offer rapid COVID-19 testing at school sites and that school nurses can receive the first dose of vaccine as early as next week. 

“We are very pleased we can get vaccinations for our school nurses,” Chief Operating Officer Tiffany Delcour told Orleans Parish School Board members. Delcour said district officials hope school nurses will serve as a model for educators and students, as well. 

The news comes several days after the district announced it was shuttering in-person learning due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and the test positivity rate in the city. That announcement was made the day many students and staff had already returned to school after winter break. Students will learn virtually until at least Jan. 21. 

The district has worked with the New Orleans Health Department to create protocol for rapid on-site testing at dozens of schools. This testing would be available for students and staff who are symptomatic or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus.

Seventeen charter groups, that run 28 school campuses — or about 35 percent of the district’s schools — have enrolled in the program.

“It will be available at some campuses if indeed staff are there,” Delcour said, noting some employees are working on campus during the three week switch to virtual learning.

The district is also preparing to roll out three mobile units to facilitate routine testing, likely every other week, at school sites. Thus far 41 schools have signed up, Delcour said.

Meanwhile, Delcour said the district is collecting the names of all educators who are interested in receiving vaccine shots with the hopes it could speed up distribution when they become eligible in the state’s phased rollout plan. Delcour thought that would begin sometime in mid-February.

The district will also host a town hall for general educators regarding the vaccine on Wednesday. It will include Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Health Department, and representatives from Children’s Hospital. 

Thursday’s six-and-a-half hour training session was the first day in a two-day retreat for Orleans Parish School Board members, including four newly elected members. Members received lessons in their roles and responsibilities, state ethics law, public records law and open meetings law. 

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...