DESOTO PARISH, La. (KSLA) - After months of planning, cleaning and logistical hurdles, DeSoto Parish Schools welcomed back its students for the first time Wednesday, after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools months ago.
“I think it’s important for the kids to be in school, they missed their friends, they missed their teachers,” said Eddie Briery, as he prepared to drop off some of his children at North DeSoto Upper Elementary. “North DeSoto’s faculty and staff is incredible, so we know that the moment they leave the vehicle, they will be in good hands.”
The new year is bringing sweeping new changes, such as mask requirements for students and staff, multiple temperature checks, increased cleanings and enhanced virtual learning.
“I have no doubt about anything, I trust the staff, I know the principal totally has everything under control - to the best of his ability,” said Melissa Jones, whose fourth grade daughter returned today. “I am not worried at all, I am so excited for them to be back.”
DeSoto Parish is one of many school districts across the state and country instituting a hybrid schedule, where students rotate when they are physically in the classroom and at home.
32 percent of the district’s students will be learning virtually full time.
“We have procedures to bring kids in by grade level and color, they will go through temperature stations that are organized,” said Brandon Burback, principal of North DeSoto Upper Elementary. “They [teachers] are excited about executing the plans put into place and the training they’ve undergone the past month...my hat’s off to them.”
Since Louisiana remains in Phase II, only 50 percent of students are actually in schools, reducing the amount of contact students have with others.
“I feel so excited because when we left in March, we left and just didn’t come back,” said Kennie Barkley, a fifth grade math teacher at North DeSoto Upper Elementary. “I feel like everything is going to fall into place because we’ve been preparing all summer.”
DeSoto School leaders say students will be learning in what they’re calling ‘static groups.‘
This means lunches will be delivered to classrooms, and children presenting symptoms of what could be COVID-19 may be sent home.
“I just want to tell students, don’t be nervous, parents, don’t be nervous,” said Barkley. “We are ready, teachers love their students, we want them back and we’re excited.”
“This is what we’re built for, it’s game day,” said Clay Corley Superintendent of DeSoto Parish Schools. “We’ve spent a lot of time really leaving no stone unturned.”