Student wearing mask

A student exits a school bus in August 2020.

Face masks will be optional for Livingston Parish Public Schools students and employees beginning Thursday, Oct. 28, Superintendent Joe Murphy has announced.

Murphy also said the district will reinstate quarantining and close contact guidelines that were enacted at the start of the school year, which he noted was required as part of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proclamation for lifting the mask mandate in public schools.

Masks will still be required for all school bus drivers and passengers, in adherence to a federal mandate, Murphy said.

“It is important to know that current data on positive and close contact cases in our district has diminished greatly over recent weeks, and we believe our decision is supported by that data,” Murphy said.

The latest change in policy came one day after Edwards lifted the statewide mask mandate that had been in place since early August. After removing his original mask mandate in May, Edwards reinstated it in response to the state’s fourth surge of COVID-19, a surge fueled by the more transmissible Delta variant that led to record-breaking numbers regarding cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations.

Though he removed the mask mandate for most settings, Edwards said K-12 schools would still be under a mask mandate unless they chose to “opt out” by following existing quarantine guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

The announcement came weeks after State Superintendent Cade Brumley gave school districts the power to implement a “parent choice,” in which parents and guardians of close contacts had the option to quarantine their child or allow them to stay in school. At the time, Brumley called it a “common-sense” approach to students missing face-to-face instruction “unnecessarily.”

Livingston Parish was one of several school districts that enacted the “parent choice” option but has now reverted back to the former policy in order to remove the mask mandate, a highly controversial issue that led many parents to protest a School Board meeting before the school year.

Most local school districts have gone the same route as Livingston Parish with regards to the mask mandate. So far, school leaders in Tangipahoa, St. Helena, Ascension, West Feliciana, and West Baton Rouge parishes have announced intentions to make face coverings optional.

Only one nearby school district — East Baton Rouge Parish — has said it will adhere to the current masking requirements for students and employees.

Per the reinstated guidelines, all positive cases will be required to quarantine.

For those who are considered a “close contact” — within 6 feet of a positive case for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period — there are quarantine options.

For students and employees, quarantine can end after 10 days, on day 11, without testing and if the person has not exhibited any symptoms.

However, quarantine can end after 7 days, on day 8, if the individual tests negative for COVID-19 test and has not exhibited any symptoms. The test may be collected on day 5, but quarantine cannot be discontinued earlier than day 7.

In all cases, testing is not mandatory and would be the employee’s or parent’s responsibility “if this option is chosen,” LPPS guidelines state.

“Due to proactive decisions made by the Livingston Parish School Board, our district has greatly increased its medical staff across the parish, and all decisions related to quarantine requirements for positive and close contact cases will be based on their medical expertise,” Murphy said.

Livingston Parish Public Schools’ Operational Guidelines and Quarantining options are available on the district website at www.lpsb.org and on the district’s social media pages, including Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/livingstonpps and Twitter at https://twitter.com/livingston_pps.

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