Ascension Parish schools set to open for unusual year

Michael Tortorich

Chairs spaced more than six feet apart, each holding Chromebooks, folders, and masks, were placed around the Ascension Catholic High School gym.

Ascension Catholic Principal Sandy Pizzolato gives a presentation to high school students July 31 on coronavirus prevention measures in place for the new year.

Secretary Wendy Poirrier, preschool teacher Ashley LeBeouf, and counselor Megan Ourso were among the staff members who assisted principal Sandy Pizzolato with the orientation July 30-31.

Pizzolato presented new procedures pertaining to school days, which start Friday, Aug. 7.

Virtually every aspect of the school day has been adjusted to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The incoming seventh grade through senior classes, arriving at separate times, took school photos before going over the new policies spanning across the campus. It was March 13 when schools abruptly closed throughout Louisiana.

“If you work really hard and are kind all the time, amazing things will happen,” Pizzolato said during the presentation to the classes.

Like schools throughout the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Ascension Catholic will follow guidelines set by the state Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control. Administrators have worked with Our Lady of the Lake consultants on preventing coronavirus infection, according to the Superintendent Dr. Melanie Palmisano.

“What we know to be true is that students miss going to school, seeing their friends, and connecting with faculty members who provide relational support for learning,” Palmisano wrote in a column published in the Catholic Commentator.

Measures include mandatory masks, social distancing, and temperature checks for students and visitors.

Ascension Parish’s public school teachers returned to work Aug. 3, though many have worked through the summer break. Educational services are set to begin Aug. 10.

According to a recent update from Superintendent David Alexander, middle and high school students will be divided into two groups with alternating days of in-person and online learning while in Phase 2. For the first week, primary school students will attend school in small groups Monday through Thursday, and will transition to full attendance Friday. Aug. 14. After the first week, all primary students will attend school in buildings each day.

More information on Safe Start Procedures and Guidelines can be found at

The public school system has been working with several state, parish, and local leaders for guidance and support as well.

In closing, Alexander said it is important for parents and guardians to monitor their child’s health daily. That includes temperature screening, and keeping children home who have any symptoms of illness or any elevated fever.

Students at both public and private schools are encouraged to wear facial coverings every day, and to the greatest extent possible. 

Alexander also asked for support of the parish’s teachers.

“They are a phenomenal group of professionals that labor daily to provide the highest quality experience possible for every student,” he said. “They will need your patience and your support.”