With spring graduation ceremonies canceled or postponed, many class of 2020 graduates are disappointed that their official graduation day won’t be recognized the way they had anticipated. “That walk across a stage was earned through four (in my case, five) years of hard work and panic attacks — just to be taken away within a blink of an eye,” said Loyola University senior Christian Willbern in an Uptown Messenger column. While few deny the public health necessity of closing colleges, it was heart-rendering for many seniors to be abruptly banished from their campuses in the final months of their final year. Universities are finding ways to commemorate the day, often through virtual ceremonies to be followed by a delayed ceremony. Tulane University’s virtual ceremony marking the conferment of degrees to the class of 2020 will take place May 16.
The final months and weeks leading up to high school graduation tend to hold anticipated end-of-year senior traditions, celebrations and countdowns, but this semester is different. The class of 2020 won’t be able to celebrate their accomplishments with hugs from faculty and classmates this month; they won’t be able to graduate in a venue surrounded by cheers from family and friends; and they won’t be able to walk proudly across a stage to receive a handshake and a diploma. When Gov. John Bel Edwards announced school closures for the remainder of the semester in mid-March, students were faced with the challenge of adjusting to a new normal of distant learning. Now, with the state-wide stay-at-home order extended through May 15, graduating seniors are confronted with another major unprecedented change: a socially distanced graduation celebration. “Once you start your freshman year of high school, all you can think about is walking across that stage your senior year to make yourself and family proud,” said Rayon Pratt, a graduating senior at Landry-Walker high school.
I want to be a part of the city’s long-term economic recovery. That’s why I got tested for the COVID-19 yesterday at New Hope Baptist Church in Central City. Administered by Ochsner Medical Center, which has the in-house lab capacity to turn around results within 72 hours, the process was quick, easy and painless. I am a firm believer that everyone should get tested. It’s better to know whether you have the virus — or whether you are a carrier with no symptoms. In addition to determining who should be quarantined, test results serve as a useful guide for public health officials and elected leaders to determine where the virus is more prevalent, how it spreads, where to deploy resources and when to relax stay-at-home restrictions.
I’m Joe Gerrity, local businessman, investor, and Real Estate Broker. For my Yo Joe! column, I’ll be answering real estate questions and providing market information special to New Orleans during this pandemic. Yo Joe! How were real estate sales affected in April?
Council members Helena Moreno, Jason Williams and Jay H. Banks are proud to announce mobile COVID-19 testing in Central City. The testing initiative is hosted by 12 Baptist churches throughout the city and held this week at New Hope on Rev. John Raphael Jr. Way. In partnership with the city of New Orleans, NOLA Ready and the New Orleans Health Department and Ochsner Health System, community drive-thru or walk-up testing will take place on Tuesday (May 5) and Wednesday (May 6) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New Hope Baptist Church, 1807 Rev. John Raphael Jr. Way (formerly LaSalle Street). “Having testing easily accessible to those that are most likely to be impacted and who are less likely to be able to get to the other testing sites, just makes sense,” said District B’s Councilman Banks. “Throughout every crisis New Orleans has experienced, churches have been an anchor, and served as a beacon of hope.
The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a dramatic shift in public education that could finally force New Orleans leaders to address the myriad inequities that have robbed our most vulnerable children of reaching their full potential. It will take outside-the-box forward thinkers to build a post-COVID educational system that focuses on what will become the new normal — personalized learning beyond the traditional school classroom. Our elected and charter officials as well as parents and civic and business leaders must come together with a clear vision to meet these expanded education goals. School systems without fund reserves could be armed with fewer financial resources as budgets take a hit from projected virus-related reductions in sales and ad valorem taxes, which currently make up a large portion of education funding. During this pandemic one group of New Orleans learners have faced the greatest challenges — the 35,000-plus students from disadvantaged households who make up 83% of charter school students in Orleans Parish.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences has awarded the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, or REACH, at Tulane University a $100,000 contract to collect data from approximately 150,000 school websites across the country to see how the nation’s education system is responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The project, which will track traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools, aims to quickly answer questions that are critical for understanding how students are learning when school buildings are closed. Key questions include: how many schools are providing any kind of instructional support; which are delivering online instruction; what resources are they offering to students and how do students stay in contact with teachers? “This data will also help answer important questions about equity in the school system, showing how responses differ according to characteristics like spending levels, student demographics, internet access, and if there are differences based on whether it is a private, charter or traditional public school,” said REACH National Director Douglas N. Harris, Schlieder Foundation Chair in Public Education and chair of economics at Tulane University School of Liberal Arts. REACH will work in cooperation with Nicholas Mattei, assistant professor of computer science at Tulane University School of Science and Engineering, to create a computer program that will collect data from every school and district website in the country.
Krewe of Red Beans, Rouses Markets, the Preservation Hall Foundation, Market Umbrella and the New Orleans Musicians Clinic & Assistance Foundation are partnering for a new effort to ease the pain of the pandemic, the Feed the Second Line program
On March 17, the Krewe of Red Beans, a group that holds a Lundi Gras walking parade, began raising money to buy food from locally owned New Orleans restaurants. Quickly, the effort grew. A month later, the Krewe of Red Beans was operating the largest such effort in the United States. As of April 19, the Feed the Front Line NOLA had sent over 60,000 meals to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers engaged directly with COVID-19 patients, spending $566,000 in the local economy so far. 49 restaurants and coffee shops are being supported by the initiative.
For Part 2 of this two-part series on Magazine Street, Uptown Messenger takes a snapshot of restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. (Part 1 focused on local shops and galleries.)
Along Magazine Street, a gastronome can sample French, Indian, Vietnamese, Cajun, Creole, Chinese and homegrown flavors in myriad restaurants that dot the six-mile stretch. Bars, an important part of New Orleans social life and culture, can be temples of cocktail culture or beloved neighborhood hangouts. Coffee shops offer places to relax, visit, study or work and have their own individual vibes. Along with the mix of retail stores, these businesses have made Magazine Street a popular destination for tourists and locals.
Who among us wouldn’t want to be eating with friends at a neighborhood restaurant, shopping at a favorite boutique or getting ready for Jazz Fest? Unfortunately we can only dream about those luxuries right now. Ms. Corona is holding us back as a region, a nation and globally. She won’t be letting go until we have a vaccine. As the owner of several small businesses, I want to open up New Orleans just as much as anyone. I need customers.