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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 66

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

Week #66

'Our Kids, Covid, and School Safety'

Meeting Notes Prepared by Zoë Haddad (Walls Project)

Charles Lussier (The Advocate)

  • Covering schools in EBR for about 20 years

  • Article I wrote last fall on the history of EBR schools going back to the days of integration in the late 60s/early 70s: 50 years after desegregation order, Baton Rouge schools look nothing like what was intended

  • Gives context for how we got to where we are today

  • To summarize, East Baton Rouge was a growing community after WWII with a massive influx of people into the area. But as with all the south we had separate schools for Black and white children. That started to change incrementally in the 60s with a massive integration shift in September 1970, at least on paper. Just because you tell people you’re going to school together doesn’t mean you do. Baton Rouge High is an example - all white, quickly became majority Black, then the community turned it into a Magnet and it became mostly white again.This started the movement of families to private schools. The state actually funded segregation academies that were all white. We had a pre-existing parochial system. The fragmentation started then and has continued. We had a desegregation order in 1981, the cross town busing, further fragmentation with suburban movement, and then the charter school movement in the 90s. School accountability, schools closing...that’s about the time I came in. I spent most of my early days in federal court trying to figure out what was going on. After federal control of the school district left, we saw a lot of changes. That’s when those charter schools really kicked into gear. We also saw with the Jindal administration the arrival of vouchers, we’ve seen a major movement towards virtual schooling even before the pandemic...choice has become the thing. You go to suburban areas and you don’t see choice like you do in the city. Baton Rouge has a traditional school district but layered on top is a whole variety of choices that didn’t use to exist. And now with the pandemic we have even more choices that have popped up. It’s a long way from 1970 when there was one school district and not too many private schools.

  • We’re seeing a lot of the same shifts as other metropolitan areas.

  • Everyone’s trying to find good educational choices for their children, they’re trying to find a workplace, something that brings the community together and uplift the community

  • It’s a massively more complex than it was

  • You have a whole lot of independent schools, online schools, etc.

East Baton Rouge School Updates

Superintendent Narcisse (East Baton Rouge School System)

  • Three major areas we’re going to focus on moving forward:

  • All schools are our schools - it doesn’t matter where you are, what type. We’re trying to make sure we unify our school systems.

  • Pushing hard on early childhood across the system. Pushing hard on our literacy work. Started meeting with our school leaders trying to get our folks into a mind set to understand it’s important to expand our partnerships.

  • Pushing into the space of Associates Degree and industry based credentials, working hard with our partners on that and making an announcement later in the year about dual enrollment

  • Also put positions adding spaces in our community work, working with Out of School providers, trying to gear up in a way that we can start getting the system closer to communities, getting partners connected in the work we’re doing regardless of the school

  • Huge Back to School bash coming up at the Raising Cane’s River Center from 10:00 - 4:00. If you are interested in being a part of that let us know! Trying to get a lot of community services and things in that space. Super excited to have sponsors like ExxonMobil and other great sponsors

  • Some of the major things I know on the mind of our community would be COVID - the Governor’s actually going to say something today to help guide it but we’re going to announce the full COVID rules August 3 with our Health Advisory Committee.

  • Once we’re clear on that I’ll make sure we have specific things we’re going to do - there’s some pieces we’re not going to change like frequent hand washing and additional cleaning. I know people really want to know what the spacing is going to look like, if kids are going to wear masks or not wear masks. We’re going to talk through that.

  • The Strategic Plan was approved yesterday. We have some data/test scores...we wanted to try to show the road map for the next five years. I hope everybody sees that every school that’s a part of EBR - whether traditional, magnet, charter, whatever - all these kids are our kids. It’s important we’re pushing them to have clear performance metrics so that performance is happening in a way that families and communities can feel we are getting progress in our system

  • We want our partners to see where they fit in the plan - we’re using the plan as a platform around how we do everything. I’ve seen a lot of aspirational but not performance driven plans so we’re going to make sure we’re monitoring and updating what our performance is for every child, and moving towards a growth metric. It’s important we have kids measure themselves and not this school vs. school. And as many of you already know, we’ve broken the city up into five regions and within those five regions look at how we allocate resources, support and work with partners

  • We are working with Social Emotional Learning, we’re going to have a Fair Assessment of the School system in that way, talk about what our next moves will be in terms of that work...we’ve added additional social workers across the system

  • It’s going to feel a little different - we have to have a quality of standard and then we work with community and school leaders to get to that standard

  • Last night also gave a Facilities Review, started working with a facilities master plan...Going to have board members go out to communities to get feedback on what we should be doing with land and be more efficient

  • One ask to the group: continue to make our conversations about children, and not about other stuff. I’m excited that this group keeps that focus and that work. I’ve been trying to make sure I get to every space to talk to people and get engaged in our work every day. We can’t do this work without all of you.

  • Finally, I’m pushing to create the first Performing Arts 6-12 in the city - we want to engage the communities a little more for the next month or two, take some board members to see some around the country. We want to keep folks engaged in that process.

Chris Meyer (New Schools for Baton Rouge)

  • For decades, as Charles pointed out, we’ve seen opportunities for really the wealthy and well informed in our communities. And nobody begrudges any family for doing what they’ve got to do to get their kids access to the most quality education they can but the reality here in BR is that many of our students and families have been left behind

  • Particularly with what we’ve seen over the last year with the pandemic, nationally I think a reckoning is coming. There are polls that public school enrollment may be down 15% come this fall, you’ve seen a rise in new school opportunities across the country that families taking advantage of

  • Here in BR we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a city that, while many have exercised by moving to the suburbs, taking advantage of private schools, enrolling in magnet schools, we’re finally a city that over the last decade has begun to open up and proven quality options

  • We’ve scoured the community and the country to find the best school options we can to help those schools grow

  • This fall we’re opening four new schools which are already fully enrolled - specifically BASIS in Mid City, Helix which operates the mentorships school and are starting two new middle schools to ultimately grow to high school models, really innovative aviation and legal academy, and then IDEA is opening its third campus and taking on a formerly struggling charter school that it’s adopting

  • Excited about these opportunities to continue and grow in partnership with the school district and the state

  • Ultimately Baton Rouge will be a leader offering families that have typically not been able to either navigate those processes or don’t have the ability to write a tuition check

  • We want all kids, all families to have access to great schools and not be defined by where you live and how much money is in your bank account

  • I’m really proud that some of the schools we’ve been fortunate to work with have shown the fastest growth in the state

  • One thing Tyler and I wanted to highlight today is that we’ve been deepening our schools partnerships with families

Tyler Litt (New Schools for Baton Rouge)

  • Families, Schools, and Communities Connect has expanded from a pilot that Mrs. Gwen has lead

  • Started off with three schools - Basis, Emerge, and Redesign - in 2019 where we were able to support 125 families to a truncated spring session this past spring where we supported 1,000 students and their families

  • Hoping to gain new partnerships with our schools and the community

  • OneRouge has really shown us the power of working groups - we want to have whole group sessions but also breakout sessions that focus just on affinity groups like ELL students, students with exceptionalities, etc.

  • Unleashing our community asset resource map this year to support school liaisons with access to social services and other resources

  • Genius is evenly distributed but opportunity is not

  • As part of my shameless plug, if you impact children, if there’s anything you can do to support the betterment of our community, contact me.

Dr. Sarah Barlow (Baton Rouge Community College)

  • One of the most exciting things for us is that we’ve sought and gained approval from the nursing board to admit our largest and most diverse nursing cohort for the Fall of 21 (90 students)

  • Game changer for the college and region in terms of ability to respond to the current need

  • This is something we hope to continue to grow upon

  • Going to begin building a new nursing building at the Mid City site...Great opportunity to grow the RN and LPN program

  • Also had a couple additional programs in our Computer Science field with Cybersecurity and Application Software Developer

  • Working every day to respond to workforce need

  • For the fall, right now we’re continuing to offer courses in multiple modalities: we have high flex, hybrid, face-to-face

  • Plans A, B, C, etc in place to pivot as our daily monitoring impacts the look of the fall

  • Another exciting component that has come out is that students now have the ability to go in and make modifications to their stated income for financial ai, so if you have a student who submitted their 21/22 FAFSA but have experienced an alteration in income you can go in and change that

  • We’ve combined Division of Adult Education with Technical Education

  • Provides more access to those pursuing their high set equivalency to earn IBCs to complete the high school classes and get credentials needed to enter the workforce

  • We’re very excited for the Glen Oaks opportunity that will begin this fall - students entering the ninth grade will begin their first college class in pursuit of ending high school with an associate's degree

Dr. Girard Melancon (Baton Rouge Community College)

  • Average age of our students is around 28/29, previous years 30-40% of our students had some experience of college and are looking to re pivot or accelerate their careers

  • 60-70% are disconnected young adults

  • Now in our 8th month piloting the Snap 50/50 training program

  • Also dealing with disconnected populations with our ExxonMobil partnerships since 2012

  • That has grown into the Baton Rouge Healthcare training initiative focusing on pathways with very competitive hospitals working with commonalities in allied healthcares

  • Three new programs:

  • CDL launching in September. Nationwide there’s a driver shortage. The average wage is $61k. In Baton Rouge alone there’s been a shortage of about 1,200.

  • Civil Infrastructure Training Program

  • Enhanced our Electrical program with the Green Energy Sector - solar installation paneling in the fall, HVAC program

  • Tuition incentives and resources to help offset costs as well

Dean Donald Andrews (Southern University and A&M College)

  • Dean of the College of Business

  • Learned to be flexible over the last year

  • People are looking for talent - that’s the key factor driving the new economy

  • We have positioned our students through various programs - accounting, management, finance, marketing, etc.

  • We have to show that we are engaged, innovative and having an impact

  • Positioning the school to be involved in the community

  • We’ve run various programs out into the community, many of which are now virtual...It’s been a major pivot for us

  • We have to more or less build trust in the community

  • I think the OneRouge program is moving us in that way in terms of helping us to all realize we have the same problems. Education, as Mandela said, is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.I think we all want to see Baton Rouge change and be successful and this coalition is one way to do that

  • We have to realize the opportunities we have and the ability to move the community forward

Brandon Smith (Louisiana State University)

  • Update on some COVID protocols: Still doing our daily symptom checker as well as vaccination survey

  • We expect a decision to made in the next two weeks for specific social distancing protocols but we are looking forward as Dean Andrews stated to getting back in person as much as we possibly can

  • In general, moving forward you’ll hear more about us enhancing our research portfolio

  • We want to grow our graduate student population

  • That also involved increasing opportunities for postdocs

  • We realize at LSU we have the most diverse freshmen class and that is because we had an enrollment management team come in to say we need to do a better job of introducing LSU to schools and districts and places we typically haven’t gone or sent recruiters. There’s been a total shift in the last three years. You get a more diverse student population when you start trying different things.

Community Discussion

Casey Phillips: With EBR Schools, I think the questions of Reverend Anderson’s that I really want to lift up are; What is being done to service immunocompromised, special abilities and ESL students this fall with the resurgence of Covid? What is being done to accommodate their families, and are our school facilities and protocols prepared for this 4th surge of COVID?

Nadine Mann (Child Nutrition Program Director, EBRPSS): EBR Child Nutrition Program works with parents that have children with special dietary needs. We have one person in my department that receives those orders. Our normal year would be about 500 special diets across the system. Alexandra Deiro Stubbs (Chief of Communications and Public Relations, EBRPSS): In terms of meeting the needs of our students with exceptionalities as well as English language learners, I’d like to elevate that they are thinking really holistic about how we’re meeting the growing needs of English language learners throughout the school system. We are ensuring that we are meeting the language needs of all of our students and families, making them a lot more visible. For our ESS students as well we’ve done additional structuring and support there as well. They’ve been doing a lot of work in trying to engage the community around what the additional needs are for those students and how we can better meet those needs. We’ve heard from the community that we could be doing a better job. I think you’ll start seeing a lot of that work. We’re working on getting more nurses and counselors in schools as well. As we jump into that school year, I think you’re going to start seeing and feeling differences. As it relates to compromised children, every decision we make is hand in hand with the leading health officials in the state. We have been clear that we will lead with data and science to keep our children and families safe. Eligible students and staff who would like to can receive the vaccine...we’ve been really encouraging folks to receive the vaccine and continue with mitigation measures. We have not made the official announcement yet. We want to ensure that we’re watching the most current and recent data.

Chris Meyer: We’re blessed as a community to now have a diversity of options and availability for families….the important work for groups like this is how are we reaching families so they’re informed about what their options are, how are we expanding options that have long waitlists and demands...there were questions about students with dyslexia, Louisiana Key Academy’s waitlist is overflowing, same with the Emerge school for students with autism. Are we ensuring students are funded at the right level they need to be so that when families make a choice to move their student to a particular school or not the appropriate amount of funds follow that student. A lot of comments here about looking to other cities and states that have done the state level we differentiate funding based on unique needs, we could do that on the local level as well. Choice is here and growing and families should not be disempowered from that because of their unique needs.

Alfreda Tillman Bester (Dept. of Children and Family Services): I’m concerned because...all of the parents want their children to be back in school. A lot of the conversation circles around the socialization of children but the emphasis definitely needs to be on the health and safety of the children. We’re having this surge of COVID coming back into communities, breakthroughs in some of the people that have already been vaccinated...We need to look at how we have 20-30 students in a classroom and maintain the safety of those children, especially the ones who are 12 and under and not eligible for vaccinations and also talk about the health and safety of teachers, administrators, and support staff. I’ve not heard enough conversation around emphasizing the health and safety of the children. I’d like for anyone who has information or thoughts to please share with us whether you’re private, parochial, charter, or EBRPSS.

Charles Lussier: I'm not the expert on this but there is some money that has been used this summer for ventilation upgrades in schools. There's been some debate, you have some very old schools and systems so there's some limits to how much you can improve them with new filters and what not. There's a lot of activity on that front.

Alexandra Deiro Stubbs: We are upgrading the HVAC systems because that is one piece of the puzzle, but there are multiple recommendations that have been made by the CDC. And again, every decision we’re making as it relates to the health and safety of our children and families is driven by the recommendations of healthcare professionals at the federal and state level. We’re making sure we’re doing the correct distancing, that masks are worn properly, temperature checks, isolation rooms...we’re actively tracking the vaccination efforts and clinics we have offered throughout the school year. I think as it relates to facilities, one of the goals of the facilities plan that we discussed yesterday was to determine and get a full picture of what our facilities look like, what needs repair, figuring out how we can best meet the needs of students and families and doing that in an equitable and thoughtful way.

Casey Phillips: Next topic, the federal unemployment stipends are coming to an end, the moratorium on evictions is about to expire...we’re headed for catastrophe. We’re going to have some serious flux in housing in August and that’s going to greatly