Lafayette, LA (KPEL News) - The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we think about being in common spaces with people, especially schools. Parents in Louisiana, Texas, and states around the country were instructed to keep their students home if they were coughing, sneezing, running fever, or showing any symptoms of illness in an effort to stave off the spread of the virus.

Students went back to the classroom in the fall of 2020 wearing masks and social distancing. If they coughed or sneezed, parents kept them home. Everyone anywhere got nervous when they heard anyone hacking or were within 10 feet of a person who sneezed, so sending children to school was nerve-wracking.

Fast forward to 2024 and the world is still changing. The masks have disappeared, people are less leery when they hear a cough, and we are back to our normal social selves.

The problem is that parents everywhere, including in Louisiana and Texas, are still keeping their children home at the slightest sign of illness, and students are missing an unacceptable number of school days.

The Associated Press reported at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year that a 25% of students across the country were absent for at least 10% of the 2021-2022 school year.

In Texas, those students may have been subject to some sort of penalty under state law. In Louisiana, a student can be expelled from school for missing more than 15 days. It's worth mentioning that each state makes provisions for excused absences.

Parents from Dallas to Austin to Houston, and Lake Charles to Lafayette to Shreveport are confused by what the rules are since the pandemic. The messages have been evolving and mixed since the fall of 2020.

Excessive absences, excused or not, harm a student's educational progress, so it's important to make sure they miss as few days as possible.

According to,

Missing just two days a month of school―for any reason― can be a problem for kids in a number of ways. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read on grade level by the third grade. For older students, being chronically absent is strongly associated with failing at school―even more than low grades or test scores. When absences add up, these students are more likely to be suspended and drop out of high school. Chronic absenteeism is also linked with teen substance use, as well as poor health as adults.

Hospitals and child safety groups have been weighing in about what conditions should prevent a child from attending school post-pandemic, and they appear to be coming into greater agreement when making their recommendations.

Attendance Works is an initiative at the federal and state level that works to improve school attendance. They released information, in conjunction with the National Association of School Nurses and Kaiser Permanente, that outline simply when you should send your child to school. According to the document:

Make sure to send children to school if they are:

  • Generally healthy and well.
  • Participating in usual day-to-day activities.
  • Children can even go to school if they:
    • Have a mild cold, which may include a runny nose and/or cough.
    • Have eye drainage without fever, eye pain or eyelid redness.
    • Have a mild stomachache.
    • Have a mild rash with no other symptoms.
    • Have head lice. Though they are annoying and should be treated, lice are not a reason to exclude a child from school.
    • Haven’t had a fever overnight and they have not taken fever-reducing medicine during that time.

Parents should keep their students at home if they:

  • Have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher.
  • Have vomited 2 or more times in 24 hours, or if they have diarrhea and aren't able to make it to the toilet in time.
  • Have a blistery or draining rash.
  • Are genuinely not feeling well enough to participate in normal activities.

These recommendations are painted with a broad brush and come with caveats:

  • Check with your school or school system to determine if their preferences differ.
  • Seek medical attention for your child if their condition is concerning to you.
  • Talk to your doctor or pediatrician about their recommendations for school attendance for your child.

We all want to see the COVID-19 pandemic in our rearview mirrors. Part of getting there is making sure our children are attending school regularly.

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