August 08, 2020 Update

Dear Ascension Public Schools Families

I know you have been receiving information throughout this week from your schools as we all work together to prepare for the opening of schools on Monday. It has been a great week of preparation for us, and we look forward to reconnecting with your children whether in person or online.

As we have been stating for some time now, this is going to be a very unusual process moving forward. Clearly, we are not accustomed to going to school in shifts, wearing face coverings, conducting initial screenings at the beginning of the day, and staying physically distanced throughout the day. The many safety standards that we will be following will take some time before they become efficient routines. Our bus drivers and transportation employees have been busy preparing buses and routes and finalizing plans for their work to safely deliver students including adding routes to their normal operations. Although we are confident we are up to the task, we also recognize there exists many areas where the transportation effort could experience delays. We ask for your patience.

This week of preparation has clearly been, once again, an example of the heart that our teachers, administrators, and support staff have for students. Those who work in our school buildings as well as all those district-level instructional personnel, the operational team, and the administrative team share a commitment to provide students with exceptional service and learning opportunities. 

It has been a team effort, as it is each time we open a new school year, but preparation this year has been an enormous challenge. I know you will join me in expressing your gratitude to the nearly 3,000 strong Ascension Public Schools employees for their dedication and determination to “get ready” to serve students once again. 
Some additional reminders to consider as we launch this school year:
  • SCREENING: Please, please, please, screen your child each day, and if they have any symptoms or elevated fever do not send them to school. We will also screen each employee and student at the beginning of their day at school.
  • FACE COVERINGS: Help us ensure that students understand the necessity of wearing a face covering. This is a critical safety component that has been clearly stated by the physicians guiding the work of opening schools. For reference, please see the letter from Our Lady of the Lake physicians about face coverings
  • DRINKING WATER: The CDC recommended that we close shared drinking fountains. As an alternative, we are asking parents to ensure their students bring a refillable sports bottle with their name on it to school daily. We will allow students to fill these bottles at sinks and water bottle filling stations.
  • PHYSICAL DISTANCING: We will be distanced to the greatest extent possible, as required. In many cases, especially in middle and high schools, that will be a full six feet. In some classes, we may not achieve the full six feet, but we will achieve the greatest extent possible relative to our commitment to physical distancing. In primary schools, most classrooms will not have the full six feet of distancing, but we will be able to maintain static groups. 
  • INSTRUCTION: Our teachers have been preparing all week to work on their demand to support both in-person learning and online learning throughout the day. If you have a middle or high school student attending in-person on alternate days, they will need to log into their classes at the regularly scheduled class times while attending school at home. Specific instructions will be communicated by your child's teachers. We are so very grateful for the courage of our teachers to create instructional services that, in many cases, have never been tried. We will need your patience.
  • 100% ONLINE LEARNING: If your child is in Home Based Virtual Learning at any level, but especially as a primary school student, they will still need your supervision for engagement and on-task behavior. We will teach them, but we cannot possibly supervise them while they are not physically with us. They will be working some with the teacher and some independently throughout the day, similar to what they would be doing in the regular classroom. This approach to instruction is a work in progress. We are learning as we go to provide instruction to both in-person students and students online, in a simultaneous manner. We believe this will be good, but we also realize that our strategies and instructional techniques will get better, over time. Our Blended Learning Program students will be more on their own schedule and will receive support from an instructional source other than the regular classroom teachers who are supporting in-person learning. Please know, the paperwork for our 100% online programs are being processed as quickly as possible. If you have not yet heard from your school, you will soon even if it is early next week. In those rare cases, your student will not be penalized for starting late. Also, registration for joining an online program will reopen at the end of August and will be handled by each school. 
  • CURBSIDE STUDENT MEALS: For students enrolled in online learning or on a virtual day of an alternating schedule, curbside meal pickup will be available from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. daily at Lowery Elementary/Middle, Dutchtown High, East Ascension High, St. Amant High and Sorrento Primary schools. Download the Student Meal Request Form which must be filled out to receive meals. Students do not need to be present, but the forms must be completed daily to pick up meals. Students will pay according to their meal benefits status. Parents can apply for free and reduced-price meals online at
  • PROCESS FOR CONFIRMED POSITIVE CASES: In the event we have a confirmed positive COVID-19 case (not a presumptive case nor rumors of a case) of any individual that is in our school buildings, we will work with the Office of Public Health, our school nursing staff, school administrators, and others as appropriate to identify and notify close contacts of the confirmed positive case in a timely fashion, as required. Once close contacts have been notified, parents and staff will be notified via email that a positive case has occurred. This will be a general notification from your school's principal without any details regarding the individual that tested positive as information about a person's health is strictly confidential. This process has been added to the 2020-21 Safe Start Guidelines & Procedures document on our website.
Things will be different this year. Things will be a bit awkward, and routines will take some time to develop. Things will be challenging and frustrating at times for our employees, for you as parents, and for our students. But, what remains the same is our commitment to provide high-quality experiences every day to the best of our ability. Our hearts drive us to work to protect, educate, and develop this generation of children so that they can pursue their dreams and flourish in the post-secondary world one day. That drive remains steadfast in what we call our work and our calling. 

We are looking forward to the many successes ahead and the friendships we will make by getting through this tough time, together!
David Alexander
Ascension Public Schools