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Dear NOLA-PS Community Members,

School is back in session.

I watched students arrive for their first day of class last week, and I could see the joy in their eyes and in the eyes of their teachers who greeted them.

It was clearly time for everyone to come back together, ready to learn.

I wish I could say I also saw their broad smiles, but I will have to wait for those a while longer. Instead, I was appreciative to see everyone wearing masks and taking great care to apply all the techniques we learned these past 18 months to keep ourselves and each other safe from COVID-19.

All NOLA Public Schools will greet their students by Aug. 18, and we will have started our third school year in a row to be impacted by this ever-changing pandemic.

Like many of you, the pandemic has challenged us in many ways. I wish more than anything that we could once again be free of the worry and the work that comes with keeping this virus at bay. But when I reflect on the learning loss that this pandemic has inflicted on even our youngest students, and the possibility that we may have a generation of New Orleanians forever struggling to catch up on their educations, I am reenergized. Giving up is simply not an option.

To give our students the best opportunity to catch up and excel, NOLA-PS is committed to keeping our school buildings open, our teachers teaching and our students learning in the classroom, in person, full time, together. The well-known benefits of in-person learning for a child’s emotional and social development, and the access to resources like hot meals and mental health services, are irreplaceable.

At the same time, NOLA-PS and our schools are dedicated to keeping our students and staff protected against COVID-19. This school year is different because we have access to a powerful tool against the pandemic that we didn’t have last August. Namely, we have vaccines for everyone 12 and older, and we anticipate younger children will soon be eligible, too. The more students and family members who get vaccinated, the safer all of us will be. So please, if you’re eligible, get the shot. It’s not only your life you could be saving.

I am grateful to Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who recently joined me to help spread the word about the value of vaccines, wearing masks, and attending school in-person. Please take the time to watch and share our message with our community.

We led the nation in reopening our schools last year, and a big part of that effort was the sound advice we received from our local medical experts and health partners. This same team is with us again this year. We trust them because they are more than advisors. They are on the frontlines of this pandemic. When you have an appointment or must go to the hospital, they are at your bedside. We are listening to them so that we can make thoughtful, informed decisions about the safety of our schools because you listen to them, too, to make those same decisions for yourself and your family.

Where our advisors steer decisions, our teachers put them into practice for the benefit of their students. And our teachers have done an outstanding job from the very beginning of this pandemic.

They have had every possible curveball thrown at them, from new technology, new modes of teaching and quarantines, to the completely valid questions from concerned parents and students, and they have navigated these with flying colors.

I could not be prouder of how our educators have responded, and we should continue to support them in every way possible. If it wasn’t for them, our students would not be positioned as they are to recover academically from the impact of this pandemic.

Beyond preserving in-person learning, we have another major challenge this year: reconnecting those students to learning who, for one reason or another, struggled or disengaged with their educations last year. We also see the gaps in economic inequities and racial disparities grew wider during those stretches of virtual learning. 

NOLA-PS has partnered with schools to launch a joint campaign welcoming students back and to build their morale over the course of the year. We simply cannot allow any more learning loss to occur. As I said before, a whole future generation of New Orleans is at stake. 


In Service,

Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr.


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