Students are walking into school desks with a smile on their faces.
But there’s a price to pay for their optimism.
The last school day of school in Liberty, La., will be Tuesday.
The school closed to the public for the day after a state investigation found the facility used dangerous chemicals in its disinfection process.
It has been a long struggle for the school district, which has struggled with its finances and a shrinking enrollment, and the closure was inevitable given the recent outbreak of the coronavirus in Louisiana.
The last school for students from Liberty was held in March.
“We’re hoping to be able to reopen in September,” said Laura Ollie, the school principal.
Ollie said she was encouraged by the response of students and parents to the situation, especially the positive reaction to the video posted by parents on social media.
Olliie said her school has also seen some positive news in recent days, including that the district is working on a plan to create a program for children with autism.
The plan will be a joint effort between the school, the state Department of Health and Hospitals, the local government and private businesses.OLLIE, a lifelong La. resident, has been with the school for about eight years.
She said the closure, which is the latest in a string of closures and closures that have hit the district, is not surprising.
“It’s been a lot of challenges and frustration,” Ollies said.
The district was in the process of restructuring after losing the business that provided food service to schools, which includes Liberty.
Ollys job is at the state government, where she was appointed principal in February.
In March, the Louisiana State Board of Education voted to recommend the closure of the school.
After a public hearing in May, the board unanimously voted to close the school and move the students to a new facility.
After the state board’s vote, the district announced that the closures would end in August, with the students moving to another school.
Olliie has been trying to reopen the school in the meantime.
The closing is an important first step, Ollis said.
The closure is not permanent.
She wants to do the work and help the children as soon as possible, but there is no rush.
She hopes students will feel confident that they are still able to attend.
“I know some students, like I do, are concerned that the school is going to be closed again,” Olliies said, “and I’m really hopeful that they’re going to have a better experience.”
The state Department on Human Services, which regulates schools, said in a statement that the closing is being “re-evaluated.”
A spokeswoman said the department would be working with the district to “ensure that the students are able to continue their educational program at Liberty Middle, and are not placed in another school.”
The district had been working to reopen Liberty, but the State Health Department said last month that the facility’s disinfection and cleaning process was unsafe, and there was no evidence that the chlorine used for disinfection was a safe alternative.
Otto Buell, an independent research consultant, said the disinfection of schools is a critical component of the safety and efficacy of any disinfection system.
Buell said schools are usually disinfected by putting chemicals in the air and letting it circulate.
He said chlorine-based chemicals can be toxic if they react with water, which can then lead to chemical reactions.
“Chlorine is very potent, and you can easily get a big release,” he said.
“But you can also get a little leak in there, and that can cause some serious problems,” he added.
“There’s no doubt that the safety of schools should be the top priority.”
Bueill said he would not speculate on how the students might be able access the school without the chlorine.
Orellies said the state had asked for a list of schools to help them determine the best way to move the kids.
“This was never an option,” Ollaie said.
“This was always a challenge.”
Ollies has also asked the state to provide the schools with a copy of the new state regulations that came into effect in September.
She was given the list of changes in January and said she hopes the changes are as easy to follow as the state has made them.