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A Letter from JFT President Kesler Camese-Jones

Dear JFT Members,

To those of you who have taken the time to express your views, we thank you. We listen closely to our members and take the views of all our members into consideration. You are JFT.
As you are probably aware, at the July 15th Special School Board meeting, the school board voted to delay the opening of school for students by one week. It is important for all of our members to know that JFT addressed the board and stated our firm position that in-person learning should be delayed until there are no new cases of COVID-19 for a minimum of fourteen days.
We have engaged in conversations with the district, making it clear that we have grave concerns that the health and safety of students and employees is at great risk if the hospitalizations, positives, and deaths continue to rise. We have asked district administrators if they truly believe that all students will wear masks, and that furniture, light switches, doorknobs, and bathroom fixtures will be sanitized “regularly throughout the school day?” We have asked whether they honestly believe that students will adhere to social distancing, and how that is even possible in some classrooms. We have asked how they conceive that these rules and others will be enforced so that students and staff are protected from this disease.
The district will release its back to school plan, soon. Everyone acknowledges that these situations are fluid, therefore, rest assured we will continue to address your concerns with them. Yes, they plan on opening schools as it stands right now. Each day brings new reports of how school districts around the country are responding. Some have already announced distance learning; others have announced hybrid formats. It is impossible to predict what is going to happen in Jefferson Parish on August 12 or the trajectory of this disease.
As I stated above, board members and administrators have heard from us. Now they also need to hear from you. HB 59, which was passed as Act 9, required BESE to adopt a policy stating minimum requirements for opening schools. Under Act 9, every school district in Louisiana is required to adopt a policy that includes those “minimum” standards. Let school board members and the superintendent know our position is clear, as long as anyone is at risk, “minimal” simply isn’t acceptable.
No one is satisfied when students put forth minimum effort and we shouldn’t be satisfied if the members of the Jefferson Parish School Board and district do only the minimum of what is required to protect the lives, safety and health of students and employees.
Please write school board members and the superintendent and ask them to do the maximum, not the minimum. And a good place to start are the minimum requirements governing face coverings and social distancing. We all know that face coverings and distancing are effective means to stop the virus from spreading. Yet, BESE’s policy says, “While inside the school facility, all adults and students in grades 3 through 12 must wear a face covering to the greatest extent possible and practical within the local community context. Ask them to eliminate that language that begins “to the greatest extent possible.”
We have released a schedule of virtual member meetings to address your concerns. Please click here to register for your school meeting.
Your safety, and the safety of your students and their families is our top priority, and we will continue to advocate for a safe return to school.
In solidarity,
Kesler Camese-Jones
President, Jefferson Federation of Teachers