As many colleges in Louisiana are announcing plans to resume on-campus classes this fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidelines for schools to reopen.

The guidelines laid out by the CDC are very robust, and could actually pose problems for schools in Louisiana. These guidelines include changes to busing, classroom sizes, playgrounds, and cafeterias. In some cases, totally eliminating the use of those spaces.

Here is a sample of some of the guidelines the CDC has put forward, prepared by WAGA-TV:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in the school and on buses at least daily. (Interestingly, the CDC has newer guidance on this outside of schools)
  • Limiting the use of shared art supplies, toys and gym equipment.
  • Keeping each child’s belongings separated from others or limiting the use of supplies to one group of a time between cleanings.
  • Ensure ventilation systems are operating and there is circulation of outdoor air.
  • Space seats and desks at least six feet apart. Turn desks that face each other to face the same direction or have children sit on one side of a table.
  • Create space on buses by keeping one child per row and skipping rows if possible.
  • Install barriers and sneeze guards where needed, like in offices, or tape lines on floors or sidewalks.
  • Close all communal spaces like cafeterias, dining halls and playgrounds.
  • Have children bring their own meals or serve individually plated meals in classrooms with disposable utensils.
  • Setting staggered arrival and drop-of times to limit contact between students and parents.

If these guidelines are followed by Louisiana schools, it could cause serious issues. In fact, some schools may not be able to operate under these conditions.

Currently, the average class size in Louisiana Elementary Schools is 22.5 students. That's with a standard class configuration. If students desks are set 6 feet apart, as listed by the CDC, that would cut the space in a class room down. Meaning instead of 22.5 kids in a room, you could likely only fit 11-12 kids per room. Meaning you will have to double classes. Doubling classes would mean doubling teachers.

Trying to find twice as many teachers as we currently have would be a pretty big issue, considering the teacher shortage across the US. The issues would also be amplified by the state's recent difficulties in providing teachers pay. Finding twice as many teachers would cost much more than the state has to spend.

But also included in the CDC guidelines are changes to busing. Where it's recommended that capacity on buses be cut by more than 90%. The CDC recommends that instead of a possible 4 children in a row of seats, buses only allow one child. Then they want buses to skip a row. Essentially using 12 possible seats on a bus, for a single student on each bus. This would be a serious issue in areas like Caddo Parish, where busing concerns have been ongoing for some time.

Another proposed change from the CDC comes to lunches and cafeterias. The CDC says cafeterias need to be closed, and students need to be given single-serve lunches. That means schools would have to hold lunches in class rooms, and would have to provide students disposable utensils for meals. Forcing school districts to spend more money on utensils, lunch bags, or other materials to provide these meals without trays or washable dishes.

One of the CDC's other guidelines includes taking the temperature of students and staff as they arrive. This would likely require additions staffing (likely to cost more due to training or education requirements), and would have the financial impact of buying needed materials. There are also ongoing questions regarding the HIPPA legalities of taking temperatures for employees, or acting on the results.

If the State of Louisiana is forced to implement these policies to reopen schools, the 2020-2021 school year may be at risk.