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Our school

Dear NOLA-PS Family and Community,

It is hard to imagine that we are almost two years to the day that the COVID-19 pandemic upended our daily lives. When I reflect on where we are today against where we were on March 13, 2020, I can only say how proud and grateful I am for our amazing community at NOLA Public Schools. From School Board members and school leaders, to principals, teachers, social workers, school nurses and cafeteria workers; from janitors to coaches, band leaders, and especially our parents and students: We came together in our collective hour of need.

We rallied around how important it is for our students to be learning in-person, face-to-face with their teachers and side-by-side with their friends – where they belong. We opened and kept open our classrooms; we kept each other safe; and we will finish the 2021-2022 school year as one more close to normal and rewarding for our students than we have enjoyed in a long time.

NOLA-PS enjoys one of the highest testing rates among students and staff, and we continue to raise the vaccinate rates among our young learners every day.

We have come so far from the uncertainty and fear of those early days. And we did it together.

Remembering the long road that brought us here, none of this could have been achieved without the hard work of so many people.

When the pandemic struck, we moved fast. Our School Board secured $5 million to buy laptops and hotspots to support the pivot to remote learning for thousands of students. Our operations team sprang into action, setting up a community feeding program to continue to provide daily meals to students who relied on them – serving more than a million meals by May 2020. Our teachers climbed the steep learning curve to reach their students through remote instruction, slowing the inevitable learning loss tied to the loss of classroom time.

The 2019-2020 school year ended with still many challenges to overcome. Rather than rest that summer, our team went into overdrive. With the help of our medical advisors and partners with local hospitals, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we established in July 2020 the “Roadmap to Reopening.”

This became the seminal handbook for reopening schools safely in the middle of the ever-shifting pandemic. It outlined masking requirements, social distancing recommendations, and limited use of communal spaces in schools. It gave sports teams, music groups, bands, marching troupes and a whole host of extracurriculars the goal posts they needed to stay safe and healthy.

And our schools were with us every step of the way.  Our community marshalled resources and collaborated with NOLA-PS and our partners with the common goal to fight this pandemic. we opened schools in phases, starting with our youngest learners, in September 2020 and kept them open for the rest of the year, save for a short closure after Winter Break in January.

Once the vaccine was approved in February 2021, we immediately established vaccination drives for all staff. And I can say now that 98 percent of our Central Office staff is fully vaccinated.

As we approached the 2021-2022 school year, we had more resources at our disposal. We established a massive COVID-19 testing program through NOLA-PS and our schools, giving us one of the best systems in the state to track the pandemic. Our participation rates remain high, with thousands of students and staff being tested every week.

When the vaccine became available for ages 12 to 17, we worked with our schools to provide access to shots. And when vaccination eligibility extended to children 5 and up and LDH added the COVID-19 to the student immunization schedule in December, I mandated that all eligible students either be vaccinated or to claim an exemption by Feb. 1, 2022. That call to action – a first in the nation – contributed greatly to a 72-percent increase in first doses among all New Orleans’ children, ages 5-17.

We are now within striking distance of easing back our COVID-19 restrictions in our schools to a level not seen since the pandemic began. On March 21, if the positivity rate in the City continues to be medium-to-low, we will lift the recommendation that masks be worn in school buildings. This will be a welcome return to normalcy as students can once again see the smiles on their friends’ faces.

From the beginning of the pandemic, we have lived by the words “We Can Do This.” I am proud to say that we have, and we did, and we did it because we are stronger, together.


In Service,

Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr.


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