September 04, 2020

Dear Ascension Public Schools Families,

Happy Friday! I know everyone is glad to be headed into an extended weekend break. We wish everyone a safe, restful, and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.  
Congratulations to all of you for the many successes we have enjoyed these past four weeks with the start of the 2020-21 school year. We know we have experienced multiple challenges, but the successes far outweigh the obstacles. We continue to be very grateful for the unbelievable teamwork that has been demonstrated while learning, implementing, and abiding by new and unusual routines designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19 during the pursuit of our mission to educate children.

We always knew that we would have cases emerge in our district's buildings and schools, but to this point, the total number of positive cases that have emerged since we began with teachers on Aug 3rd is less than 1%. Furthermore, because of the commitment to properly respond to positive cases, we have been able to prevent the infectious spread from occurring by properly identifying and quarantining close contacts in a timely manner. Finally, we want to applaud the effort of our staff to not attend work with known symptoms of an illness as well as our parents for ensuring that children don’t attend school with symptoms of any illness. As we agreed several weeks ago, by working together our teachers and staff can continue to provide children in our community the opportunity to attend school in a safe environment for all. We remain grateful for the opportunity to do what is good for children!
We look forward to continued safe operations as we move through the second half of the first nine weeks with an ongoing commitment to frequent handwashing, being mindful of distancing to the greatest extent possible, and wearing a face covering. We greatly appreciate the efforts that our employees, our students, and our parents have made to ensure that all remain as safe as is possible. Additionally, we are encouraged by the feedback we have received from the recent reviews from the Our Lady of the Lake Safety Assessment team.  They visited several schools these past two weeks to assess the implementation of our safety guidelines. To date, they have assessed the efforts of schools at each level: primary, middle, and high schools. The work from these experts in the field of healthcare provides valuable information to us, affirming our commitment to following safety guidelines that minimize and even prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our school buildings. 
Here are some important items we want to share with you:
  • INTERIMS: Interims are being distributed today and early next week. One of the most critical components of the learning process is accurate academic feedback. The interim report is designed to ensure that all students and their parents are fully aware of the academic successes as well as the challenges students may have experienced during these first weeks of school. We look forward to supporting the continued success of students in the weeks ahead and assisting and supporting those students who may have experienced challenges. We know you all agree, the teachers in Ascension Public Schools are phenomenal; their work and their commitment to excellence and innovation are second to none. And, our students, your children, have managed these new routines brilliantly. We are confident that they will continue to succeed as well as overcome any challenges to academic progress that they may have encountered during this unusual opening of school. 
  • RETURN TO IN-PERSON LEARNING: Students who opted for 100% online learning will have the opportunity to choose to return to in-person learning at the end of the first nine weeks, which is October 7, 2020. Your school will be sending out information in the near future to inform you about the procedures for opting back into in-person learning. 
  • ATHLETICS: The Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) recently released information about allowing volleyball to begin play. The initial guidance did not specifically allow spectator attendance. However, that has been revised. High schools will be providing information about upcoming volleyball matches as well as attendance guidelines. Please note, the attendance guidelines are under the authority of the State Fire Marshall and are to be strictly followed. Although attendance is limited, we consider this good news for our athletes! Additionally, it was released earlier today that football is set to begin play on Oct 8th-10th. More details will be forthcoming about football as well as other activities that may follow. We will be using the guidelines from LHSAA, LDOE, and the State Fire Marshall to determine if and how they may apply to middle school sports. We will provide you updates for both high school and middle school athletics as soon as we can. As always, thank you for your patience! 
  • PHASE 2: Currently, our state is in Phase 2, but if and when we move to Phase 3 we will have some new opportunities. For example, the minimum group size moves from 25 to 50, and bus capacity moves from 50% to 75%. Programs such as band, choir, theater, and other extracurriculars will have fewer restrictions. We will be sure to communicate to you any changes to our routines that might occur in Phase 3. However, even in Phase 3, face coverings, frequent hand washing, and distancing to the greatest extent possible will continue to be required.
  • LABOR DAY SAFETY: We are encouraged by the health care professionals to continue to be cautious about gatherings over the Labor Day Weekend. Remember to keep clean hands, maintain social distancing as may be appropriate for your social gatherings, and remain mindful of any other recommended safety measures.  
As we enjoy an extended weekend, let us all continue to keep our neighbors throughout the state that experienced the impact of Hurricane Laura in our thoughts and prayers. There are many local efforts underway in assisting them on their road to restoration including a partnership between Volunteer Ascension, our local Rotary Clubs, and Ascension Parish Government. As we learn potential ways we can assist as a school district, we will be sure to communicate that out so that anyone that wants to join the effort is given the opportunity to do so. Have a great weekend!
David Alexander
Ascension Public Schools