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Rapides Parish School Board addresses COVID guidelines, bus route changes

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 5:51 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Rapides Parish School Board held their August board meeting on Tuesday, August 3, discussing the upcoming school year that starts the following week. There are two big changes that have come just before the new year starts.

The first is an update to reopening guidelines in the parish. Those guidelines were first released last month. An update was released after Governor John Bel Edwards implemented an indoor mask mandate that started Tuesday, August 3. Now, all students ages five and up will be required to wear a mask inside school facilities. The same goes for teachers, faculty and staff. The original guidance left masks optional.

Another change has to do with bus drivers and bus routes. The board is implementing a new bus routing system this school year and with that bus drivers began bidding on routes, with drivers holding years of seniority over others being able to have the first bids. Some routes will also be changing this school year and some drivers are frustrated with the quick changes, especially with school starting the next week. There are also concerns with the number of students that will be allowed on buses as we go through another COVID-19 surge.

“I think that it’s too fast and that the bus drivers are very, very unhappy about it,” said Gregory Tennie, a bus driver for Rapides Parish. “And I think that they should have waited another year before they implemented that. They’re changing all of the routes and everyone has to repick their route. It doesn’t matter if you’re tenure or not, you have to re-pick and re-choose your routes. And then when you’re compiling 60 and 67 children on a bus, that’s too many kids on a bus, especially when you have COVID-19.”

Superintendent Jeff Powell says that bus routes for drivers should be decided by Thursday. School in Rapides Parish starts on Tuesday, August 10, but the start of school will be staggered. First through 9th grade (odd number grades) will go back on August 10. Second through 8th grade (even number grades) and the rest of the high school grades will head back on August 11.

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