The Iberia Parish School District officials focused on the health of the whole child while facing the challenges of COVID-19 during the 2020-21 school year.
District Superintendent Carey Laviolette, Assistant Superintendent of Administration Jennifer Joseph and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Heath Hulin have worked together in their respective positions for the past three years. The primary goal for the 2020-21 school year was to keep students face-to-face while following the necessary COVID-19 mitigation protocols to keep students and employees safe. As the year progressed, they continued implementing COVID-19 mitigation protocols while adding interventions to address learning loss resulting from the shutdown of schools in early 2020.
Iberia Parish School District leads 24 schools serving 11,868 students. Of those students, approximately 77% of students are economically disadvantaged.
The school system identified three focus areas critical to a successful year: 1) increasing access to resources and quality education to address learning gaps, 2) mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and 3) educating staff and students on safety practices. They then took the following actions to address these areas of concern.
- Using an equitable approach to meet students’ needs. Iberia Parish has implemented a tutoring program accessible for all students in-school and out-of-school to address learning lost from school closures in Spring 2020. This summer, they will host their most extensive summer school program for 1,200 students, with 125 educators at four sites. They have also ensured every student has reliable technology and internet access by providing hotspots and equipment to any student who needs it.
- Utilizing data and best practices to drive decision-making. The district’s leadership team used resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) to make informed decisions. This included modifications made to mealtimes in the cafeteria, bus transportation, school sports, classroom setup, and the high school graduations. Activities that could not be safely executed using proper COVID-19 mitigation strategies were not approved or permitted.
- Promoting staff training and education. The Superintendent encouraged all staff to complete the COVID-19 Mitigating Strategies training course developed by Children’s Hospital New Orleans and Social Emotional Learning Practices training course developed by LSU’s Social Research and Evaluation Center.
Superintendent Laviolette emphasizes that teamwork is critical for success. “Collaborating with community organizations, healthcare centers, other superintendents, and [the] regional medical director helps [us] make sound decisions,” she said.
Laviolette also credits the district’s strong relationship with LDH Regional Medical Director Dr. Tina Stefanski to the success of the in-person school year. Iberia Parish’s leadership team has made themselves available for school board members, school staff, parents, and students throughout the year, emphasizing that “no question was too big or small,” and keeping everyone informed was crucial to understanding why decisions were made.
As school systems prepare for the return of students in 2022, new challenges will arise. Still, it is critical to take a holistic approach when addressing the concerns of COVID-19 to ensure that each child is healthy, knowledgeable, motivated, and engaged, and has a solid foundation for long-term success. Iberia Parish School District exemplifies this approach through collaboration among dedicated teachers, schools, families, communities, and governments to place the child at the center.
All school systems can support the whole child during the changing learning landscape around COVID-19! To learn how, check out our Reopening Schools During COVID-19 webpage for a curated set of resources, training opportunities, and technical assistance.