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COVID concerns rise as Rapides students return to class

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 7:30 PM CST
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RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - Students in Rapides Parish are returning to school Friday, January 6 for the start of the spring semester. With the Omicron variant continuing to spread, the Rapides Parish School Board released a plan earlier this week, addressing how they plan to minimize the spread in schools.

As of now, masks are not being mandated, but they’re encouraged. Extracurricular activities will continue as much as possible, but social distancing will be practiced and large gatherings will be limited. Also, positivity rates will continue to be monitored to see if any further action needs to be taken.

“We follow the numbers just like everybody else does...we have to address things when the numbers go up,” said Jeff Powell, the Superintendent of Rapides Parish schools. “We’ll address those just as we have over the last couple of years.”

Still, some parents are concerned about sending their kids back to school full-time for face-to-face instruction. Distressed parent Jessica McCue said the school board isn’t doing enough when it comes to protecting children from the virus.

“The fact that they’re not mandating masks is a big concern to me,” she said. “We’re just coming off of Christmas and New Years break. There’s probably been a lot of traveling and a lot of family gatherings. Kids are getting this Omicron variant, it’s floating around. For them not to mandate the masks, or give parents any reason to feel like their kids might be safe to return back to the school, is a big concern to me.”

Dr. David Holcombe, with the Region 6 Office of Public Health, has weighed in on students heading back to school and said vaccinations and masks are what schools need right now to keep students safe.

“The vast majority are still going to be unvaccinated, and you’re going to have this Omicron that’s going to be able to jump from person to person,” he said. “So, it’s going to be critical that parents get their kids vaccinated if they can and then insist that their children wear masks. That will mean that the school will be a safer place for them than anyplace else.”

The school board said they’ll continue to monitor positivity rates and make changes as needed.

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