Report from Louisiana: COVID-19 and online teaching

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – What a difference a day makes.  Wednesday, last week, I was cutting across the Atchafalaya Basin on an airboat enjoying Spring Break, and within twenty-four hours of that Governor John Bel Edwards closed down K-12 schools, universities were shuttered, and everyone is practicing social distancing. Well, except New Orleans; they do their own thing there.

As an educator, I can tell you that my students are full of anxiety. Fortunately, I’m in a better position than a lot of people in that my kids have already been using Google Classroom. I immediately posted a sort of “check-in” assignment and on Sunday, still technically on Spring Break, most of my kids responded. Since then, most have filled in.

By Friday, my husband and I had returned to Shreveport and decided we needed a few groceries after being out of town for a week.

Big mistake.

The store was chaos.

You’ve seen images from all over the country, or seen it yourself, I’m sure. Even today, days later, there are zero paper products in the stores. Zero dried beans, no rice, canned goods are sparse. Things are restocking, but good grief – what chaos.

In Louisiana, our schools are closed until mid-April; I’ve got friends in other states who have said they won’t return to school at all this year. So far there are no directives from the Louisiana State Department of Education on graduation or testing, which has filled my students with anxiety.

As of today, all casinos in Louisiana are closed for two weeks, except those on Indian reservation. The economic loss to the state is estimated at $22 million.

With bars and restaurants closing, people staying home from work, schools closed…I don’t even want to think about the long-term economic effects of this.  It’s mind blowing, to me.

So, meanwhile, I’m teaching school from home, trying to reassure my students and still be sure they are learning. We are staying in as much as possible. Louisiana currently has 114 positive cases and two deaths. Most are in the Orleans parish area – no surprise given that Mardi Gras just happened.

Stay safe where you are. Be smart. Don’t panic or overreact.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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