From June 2021, seventeen-year-old Terrence receives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Booker T. Washington High School after the CDC lowers the eligibility age to 12. (Marta Jewson/The Lens)

The NOLA Public Schools District is tracking 453 active COVID-19 cases among students and staff, according to its weekly data report released on Monday. That is an increase of 154 from the 299 cases the district reported last week

Potential exposures have led to 4,657 students and staff going into quarantine, an increase of 1,653 since last week’s report. 

“This year, we have more tools available to us to mitigate this pandemic,” district Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. was quoted as saying in a Monday press release. “Our school community has more access to testing and vaccination opportunities than ever before. Now we all need to do our part, so we are asking our families to use these tools to protect themselves and their children. Get vaccinated if you’re eligible. Get tested regularly. And continue to mask up in school and out in the community at large.”

Of the 453 known active cases — considered active because they were diagnosed within the past two weeks — 364 were reported last week. 54 of the current active cases are among school staff, and 399 are among students. District officials said that about 125 of the cases are among people who have had no close school contacts because they have not been on school campuses.

The number of quarantines represents more than 9 percent of the combined student and staff population in the district. The highest number of quarantines was at KIPP Leadership Academy, with 308. The school reported 19 active COVID cases. Martin Behrman Charter School reported the highest number of active cases with 27. That school reported 75 quarantines.

Just weeks into the 2021-2022 school year, the NOLA Public Schools district has reported 740 cases in total, including those cases no longer considered active. That represents nearly 96 percent of the 774 the district reported during all of the 2020-2021 school year.

As of last Thursday, St. Tammany Parish Schools reported a cumulative total of 800 total cases among students since and 259 among staff, increases of 534 and 82, respectively, since the previous week. The district also reported a school-year total of 2,493 student quarantines and 188 staff quarantines, increases of 1,776 and 54, respectively. 

The St. Bernard Parish School District on Monday reported 107 active cases — 102 students and five employees — and 387 quarantines — 386 students and one employee. The district does not report cumulative numbers for the school year. Jefferson Parish Schools, which reported 345 cases and 1,267 quarantines early last week, will update its data on Tuesday, according to a spokesperson.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 and over, prompting the Louisiana Department of Health to add the COVID shot to its list of required vaccinations for tens of thousands of students at Louisiana’s public universities. (Vaccinations are available to anyone 12 and over under an FDA emergency use authorization.)

LDH has not yet added the vaccine to its statewide list of required shots for older students in K-12 schools. And no school district has requested permission to add it to district-specific vaccine schedules, according to department spokesman Kevin Litten.

“You’re correct that these would need to be added to the immunization schedule, but we don’t have a timeline on that,” Litten said. “Schools/school districts can also ask for LDH approval to add the vaccine to their immunization schedule but to my knowledge, we don’t have those requests from K-12 at this time.”

While there is no general vaccine mandate for students in NOLA Public Schools, district high schools are requiring that students participating in after-school sports and clubs get their shots.

And as of last week, about 50 percent of the schools in the all-charter district are requiring them for staff. The Orleans Parish School Board also passed a mandate last week that applies to about 200 central office staffers.

Philip Kiefer contributed to this report.

Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado is the editor of The Lens. He previously worked as The Lens' government accountability reporter, covering local politics and criminal justice. Prior to joining The Lens, he worked for...