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Dear NOLA-PS Community Members,

As the month of August draws to a close, we find ourselves in familiar territory. School is in session. Our students have all had their first days, our schools are sorting out the usual bumps and hiccups that accompany the first few weeks of every school year, and yes, it is hurricane season!

That would be par for the course, if not COVID-19 and the community spread of the Delta variant. Under that added level of difficulty, I cannot say enough how proud I am of our teachers, nurses, principals, school leaders, and supporting staff for stepping up for their students. Schools are abiding by mask requirements; they are encouraging vaccinations for all eligible students; and they are participating in regular testing at record levels.


At the District level, our team has stepped up, too. We have more tools to keep COVID-19 out of our classrooms than ever, and we are using them.

NOLA-PS was the first school district in the state to partner with the Louisiana Department of Health to provide cash incentives to students who participate in regular weekly COVID testing. Students will receive $25 for their first test and $10 for every subsequent test they take once a week under this program. We anticipate this will greatly increase participation in testing – a rise we are already seeing in our established testing programs. Last week, a record 1,600 students took a COVID test. Only 1.3 percent of those tests came back positive – an encouraging sign that COVID is not spreading within our schools as it is in our broader New Orleans community.


We are also planning a new vaccination incentive program for students, and we will have more details to share with you soon. Vaccinations – an amazing tool we did not have last school year – remains the strongest and most proven defense against the spread of COVID-19. I’m heartened to see so many students already getting their shots. They know that they are not only protecting themselves, but they are also protecting their families and their younger siblings who are not yet eligible for vaccination.


These added layers of safety and health protections continue to make NOLA-PS schools some of the safest places students can be amid this latest surge.


As a father myself, I understand the apprehension many parents continue to express about the safety of our schools. We all want to do whatever it takes to protect our children while they continue their educations with the least amount of disruption as possible. Epidemiologists and our own medical advisors continue to see evidence that schools can remain open safely because of the array of tools we have layered on top of our COVID Care Guidance for schools.


We must all continue to do our part to make this a successful and meaningful school year for all children. And so, I will repeat my call for our community to continue to step up, just as our schools have. Parents and family members need to get vaccinated as soon as possible. We all must continue to wear masks inside and outside of schools and avoid large public gatherings. Together, we can all slow the spread and keep our students learning safely in their classrooms with their teachers and their friends.

On a final note, I know this is an unsettling time as we enter the height of hurricane season, given what we have endured in the past and with another storm in the Gulf today. But I also know we are resilient, we are strong, and we will pull through this, together. Please take care of your families and loved ones and be safe this weekend.


In Service,


Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr.


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New Orleans, Louisiana 70114

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