Students at 42 Charter School arrive on the first day of in-person classes since COVID-19 shuttered schools in March of 2020. (Michael Isaac Stein/The Lens)

The NOLA Public Schools district is tracking 40 “active” cases of COVID-19 among staff and students this week, and 304 people are quarantining after coming into close contact with infected individuals, according to the district’s weekly report.

That’s a decrease from last week, when the district reported 45 cases and 536 people in quarantine. The district also admitted last week that low quarantine numbers reported in prior weeks were due to a “data error” in which people told to quarantine who were unvaccinated were not tallied in the district’s figures. Roughly half the student population is under 12 years old and thus ineligible for the shot.

Of this week’s 40 active COVID diagnoses — meaning they tested positive in the past two weeks —  33 are students and 7 are staff. The cases were spread across 20 campuses. Twenty-six of those cases were newly reported in the last week. 

Once again, the majority of cases and quarantines continue to be reported from elementary schools — where most students aren’t old enough to be vaccinated. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary reported 8 cases with 106 people in quarantine, more than one-third of the district’s total. Another 47 students and staff at Bricolage Academy are quarantining and 42 at Hynes Elementary School in Lakeview.

School district officials are preparing to vaccinate young students as soon as the Food and Drug Administration approves the shot for 5- to 11-year-olds, a move officials expect within the next two weeks. District leaders said they’ll focus their efforts on Saturday clinics so the youngsters can go with their families, and hope to begin on Nov. 6. 

The district is also planning to host a town hall for parents with Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city’s health director, during the first week of November.

Overall cases in the city of New Orleans have remained relatively low since Hurricane Ida. The city’s test positivity rate is 1.1 percent and the city is averaging 26 new cases a day, according to city data

Because of those declining numbers, which have also been reflected in the school data, the district has relaxed some COVID-19 guidelines. Schools may now use cafeterias for meals and indoor assembly space can also be used again. There may continue to be some restrictions on events that include outside visitors.

After Hurricane Ida, Gov. John Bel Edwards renewed his emergency order requiring masks in public places, including schools, for another month. He is expected to announce whether he will renew that order this afternoon. 

NOLA Public Schools put its own mask mandate in place this summer, before city and state officials announced the requirement amid the surge cases of the delta variant.

The district has reported 1,369 cases among staff and students so far this school year, including those cases no longer considered active.

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...