Governor Makes Phase Two Extension Official

Gov. John Bel Edwards Thursday signed an extension of his order keeping Louisiana in Phase Two and extending his statewide mask mandate, the closure of bars to on-premises consumption and the limitation on gatherings of more than 50 people for at least another 21 days, through Friday, August 28.

Gov. Edwards’ order to mandate masks and restrict bars matches recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the advice of public health experts advising the Governor. The Governor’s order was upheld by Judge Janice Clark in the 19th Judicial District Court on Thursday.  

The Governor’s order is largely unchanged from his previous one. The new order does remove a provision that allowed parishes to opt out of the statewide mask mandate if their parish dropped below a certain incidence level of COVID. No parish meets this requirement, and recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force support a statewide mandate.  

Louisiana has seen modest improvements in its COVID-19 situation in recent days, following the Governor’s mask mandate and bar restrictions. Reports of COVID-like illness, case counts, and hospitalizations are trending down statewide, per data from the Louisiana Department of Health.  

“We’re just asking everyone to do your part and to understand that the progress we have started to see over the last several days is positive, but we can lose it. If we do what we did after Memorial Day, we will lose our positive gains,” Gov. Edwards said. “On the other hand, if more people will comply with the mitigation measures, we will actually accelerate the improvements we are making, and they will be long lasting. We can lower our transmission rate and save lives. We’ve got a long way to go, but I am optimistic that we are going to get there. We have flattened the curve once, and we can do it again by doubling  down on these effective, proven mitigation measures.” 

Reopen School As Planned

The state will remain in Phase Two of reopening for three more weeks.  Governor Edwards on Tuesday said not enough progress in slowing the virus spread has been made, so we will hold where we are.

Red River Schools have been working to open this fall in compliance with the Governor’s orders.  Superintendent Alison Hughes told The Journal, this extension did not catch them by surprise.

Hughes issued this statement:  “I want to assure our parents that the extension of Phase II by Governor Edwards was not unexpected, and our plan to re-open schools was based on our being in Phase II.  Because of that, there are no changes necessary to continue on our road to reopening.

“Once again, I want you to know that the safety and well-being of every student and member of our staff is my top priority.  My staff and I are committed to making sure that our children and teachers stay healthy while experiencing the much-needed return to learning that the students need.”

Timeline Revised for Fall Sports

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has pushed back the start dates for fall high school sports.  As reported Wednesday, Red River Football has a new date of October 8th to begin playing games.

The Journal has obtained a copy of the memorandum sent to school officials and coaches across the state by LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine.  The LHSAA Executive Committee met Wednesday and approved date changes for fall sports.  In addition to football, cross country, swimming and volleyball are affected.

The memo also said, “This meeting also allowed for staff thoughts, plans for adjusted length of seasons, number of allowable contests, post season qualifications and COVID-19 incident protocols before or during the season.”

The earliest date for Football games is October 8th.  Cross Country and Swimming can have events beginning August 31st.  And Volleyball can hold scrimmages beginning September 5th with contests starting September 8th.

High and Junior High Updated Over Summer

By Hayley Loe

School is back in session in less than a month.  Before students go back to school there are quite a few things that the High School and Jr. High are changing. Both schools are undergoing renovations in order to make the schools better for both the students and staff.

Principal Mike Peter at the Jr. High said that “We have new air conditioning units. The teachers can control the air in their classroom and it’s not hot in the end of the hall classrooms!! They are finishing up the slab on the new gym. We are looking forward to a state-of-the-art facility. It will even be equipped with regulation volleyball equipment!! A new hallway leading to the junior high side of the cafeteria was constructed this summer along with a new office area.”

Principal JC Dickey at the High School said “Currently we have removed old lockers in the hallways and new texture and paint on walls and trim.  We epoxy and painted stairwells, repaired and brought the original stairwell banisters back to original beauty.  And renovation and bringing up to code faculty and staff restrooms.”

“The library, Junior High, cafeteria, and high school received a new Ac and heating system. 

More renovations are coming to outside court restrooms in coming months, and upgrades to annex AC.”  He also said “Red River High School main building is a beautiful outside structure and the renovations inside will help bring the inside to same beauty as the out.  Upgrades to the AC system allow for students and staff to be more comfortable in the ever-changing Louisiana weather.”

“New restrooms for faculty and staff are long overdue, and it will show our appreciation for all their hard work they do daily.  When outside restrooms are complete it will be an amazing upgrade for our students.

“The best thing about these upgrades to the main building and our outlying buildings is it brings the true beauty of our campus to light and matches the beauty of all our new construction. 

Red River Parish is an amazing parish and none of this would be possible without the community support we receive”

Virus Continues to Spread in Red River

Red River Parish is following the rest of the state in seeing an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19.  And it is increasing more rapidly at the local nursing home.

Information from the Louisiana Department of Health said there are 211 cases reported with 11 deaths.  A total of 2790 people in the parish have been tested.

The health department reports the virus continues to spread at Green Meadow Haven.  There are now two deaths among residents.  The number of residents infected jumped from 8 to 16 in the last week.  None of the residents are listed as having recovered from the virus.

As for the staff, there have been 12 cases reported.  Four of them are new this week.  One staff member is listed as having recovered.

Willie, Waylon and the Girls

By Reba Phelps

In a joint family effort to rescue and redeem ourselves from an overabundance of screen time we made a conscious decision to simply put our phones down as much as possible. Just step away from the electronics for a while to enjoy the little things in life. 

As a family, we decided to take walks together, cook more meals together and read. We made an effort to not let our phones be the first thing we pick up in the mornings. This proved extremely hard as I use mine as an alarm clock. 

And, if I am being brutally honest, I would need to confess my sins. Mom had slightly more of a screen time addiction than my off springs did. This is not normal behavior. I am a middle-aged woman and should detest technology, apps, social media and any joy that a smart phone has to offer. Parents are supposed to be the role model and not the cautionary tale. 

To begin the healing process for me I decided to deactivate my Facebook account for thirty days. I also deleted my Instagram and Twitter account for thirty days. I deleted my SnapChat off and on for the thirty-day trial period because I decided I was missing the funny videos exchanged between mother and daughter and my work friends. It wasn’t a great excuse but SnapChat was my least used app anyway. 

We even decided to take a mother-daughter road trip to San Antonio to enjoy the Texas Hill Country. 

The only stipulation was I asked my girls to not pick up their phones until we got past Many, LA. I assumed this would be a major struggle for the twenty-seven-mile hike and we would bicker until we made it to our destination. Before we left the house, we prayed for a safe trip and that really set the tone for us. We were already in good spirits. No one even mentioned the moratorium that was placed on electronics. 

Words cannot describe how much we laughed, enjoyed each other’s company and poked fun at each other for various reasons. I am sure that when people passed us, they questioned our sanity. 

Once we crossed into downtown Many, I knew in my heart this is where we would say our goodbyes. I would tune into my Podcast list and they would turn their affection to whatever Netflix held for them. Funny thing happened in Sabine Parish though. 

No one picked up a phone. We just kept visiting and laughing. 

We each took a turn playing DJ and ended up listening to a smorgasbord of music. Taylor Swift. Dwight Yoakam. Waylon Jennings. Lauren Daigle. We even threw in a little old school rap. 

We drove through Toledo Town and admired all of the new construction (with awesome BOM signs in front of them). Still no one dove for a phone. We crossed Pendleton Bridge. Still chatting. Still laughing and sharing past stories about years gone by. We were having so much fun and a screen was nowhere to be found. 

I will spare you the boredom of the turn by turn navigation of the road trip but I kept a close eye on the clock so I could measure every ounce of our enjoyment. We cherished a solid three-hour screen-free journey. I was simply amazed and appreciative that we made it way past Many just having each other as our entertainment. 

Once we were past Lufkin the road didn’t look very familiar to me. But maybe our navigation found a new and more improved route. Famous last words. It appeared that we had taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. The paved state highway in which we were traveling soon turned to gravel and none of us had a cell phone signal. 

The feeling of concern grew heavier and it just lingered in the air. I was the adult in charge, so I tried to make my daughters feel safe and secure. Fake it until you make it. We were making small, nervous talk until, we looked out the side window and noticed the most majestic triple rainbow. 

It is true when they say things are bigger in Texas. This rainbow boasted the deepest hues of violet that we have ever seen. It was so astounding that we had to stop and photograph this sight. With our phones. God promises in this rainbow brought us the peace we were looking for. 

When we finally made our mostly-screen-free-journey to San Antonio we were met by a special friend. An earthly angel of sorts. She so graciously opened her home to us for the duration of the trip and even played tour guide for the first day. We were blessed beyond measure on our journey for many reasons. 

We had ample time to enjoy each other as God intends for us to find joy with our family. 

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

1 Peter 4:8-11

Riverdale Academy Start of School

By Molly Seales

With the start of school at Riverdale Academy there are many changes that were made.  Some of the changes are good and some are not so ideal but important for the health and safety of both the students and faculty at Riverdale Academy. 

Many good changes were made this year.  The annex building was painted in a project headed up by Mrs. Brenda Rushing.  Many people came out to help with that project.  Mrs. Amanda Cason and many Beta members worked hard to make the high school beta room a comfortable environment to come and get snacks and work on dual enrollment.  Many classrooms were painted this year including Mrs. Hessons 2nd grade classroom, Mrs. Merry’s 4th grade classroom, and the elevated room which is going to be Coach Jared’s high school history room.  Finally, Sidney Jones, who is the new counselor at Riverdale, redid the upstairs office which she is going to be working out of.  With the help of Mr. David who has been working hard all summer on all of the projects these rooms are looking great for the school year.  Riverdale is doing its best to provide a balanced education in a comfortable learning environment and is offering several electives.  Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors are taking dual enrollment classes. 

As we all know school is going to be kind of different this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Due to that Riverdale is taking many precautions to insure the safety of the students and faculty.  Throughout the school and in all of the classrooms there are hand sanitizing stations.  Masks are available for faculty, staff, and students.  There are staggered times for changing classes so there are fewer people in the hallway at one time.  The Jr. High and High school classes are going to be sanitized each time classes change.  These are a few of many precautions that will be taken to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in Riverdale.  Principal Danny Rester says “The health and safety of all members of the Riverdale Academy family is our top priority.  We will follow Health and Safety Plan adopted by the Board of Directors.  Our plan is to have face-to-face instruction in any of the 3 phases of the Governor’s reopening plan.  If schools are completely closed by the Governor, we plan to offer distance learning so that all of our students will continue to receive instruction from their teachers.  Our faculty and staff are committed to providing a quality education for all of our learners this year.” 

Even with all of the changes this year, it is looking like it is going to be a good school year.   

Parish Advised to Document COVID-19 Expenses

State Representative Gabe Firment advised the Red River Parish Police Jury to document all of the expenses incurred while fighting the COVID-19 virus.  And be sure to file for reimbursements.  Firment met with the Police Jury at their August meeting Wednesday morning.

“The Legislature set aside $500,000,000 for local government expenses in the virus fight,” said Firment.  He noted, “Red River’s first allocation was about $300,000.  The parish did not submit initially.

Supervisor Jessie Davis and Jury President Shawn Beard discussed if there had been any expenses and if anything had been submitted.  Davis said, “Its not that bad.  Nothing has been submitted (for reimbursement).  Firment told the jury, “There are certain timelines and you have to submit expenses during those timelines.”

Representative Firment advised the jury to go to the website for instructions or said he would assist in filing for reimbursement.

A program for local businesses was also discussed.  Firment said information is at Louisiana Main Street website explaining which businesses would be eligible for economic assistance.  He said, “They can each get up to $15,000 if they qualify.  It is pretty simple to get up to $5,000.  I urge small businesses to apply.  The state Treasurer can help or I can help with this.”

Blood Drives Upcoming

There are two 2 blood drives coming up. Lifeshare spokesman Philip Maxfield said, “Get free ice cream.”

Maxfield explained, Everyone who Donates a pint of blood from August 1 – 16 will receive a voucher for free Blue Bell Ice Cream. There are two mobile blood drives planned in Red River Parish next week.

The drives will benefit Piper Pate.  Maxfield said, “She’s a 2-month-old who was born 27 weeks premature. She’s used a ton of blood, platelets, and plasma.”

“The Pate family is from Glouster in Desoto Parish, but family stretches into the Red River Parish as well, “said Maxfield.  He added, “For every unit of blood collected in her name, LifeShare Blood Center adds $15 to her account. These funds are then provided to the patient every quarter.”

The first blood drive will be at First Baptist Church in Coushatta on Wednesday.  The second one will be Thursday evening at Man Church on Highway 507.

Everyone who donates will get a certificate for free Blue Bell Ice Cream.  Give a pint (of blood) and get a pint (of Blue Bell).

Pumpkins Are Growing

Check out these pumpkin plants from one of our 4-h families. One of the summer projects from Red River 4-H is to grow pumpkins.

Don’t forget to take care of your Cinderella pumpkins, take pictures of them as they grow and keep of record of how big they get.

Pumpkin judging will be in late September. Thanks Ben & Morgan!!!!

For information on 4-H in Red River call 4-H Agent Jacque Fontenot at 318-932-4342.