Los Angeles Can Re-Open Public Schools, Grades TK-6 For In-Class Instruction This Week, Say Public Health Officials

Late Monday evening Los Angeles County health officials announced some long-awaited good news. In a statement, they said the region had reached the required threshold of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 to allow students back into classrooms.

The issue has been a contentious one throughout the pandemic with many parents wondering why private schools were allowed to reopen and, if there had been no pattern of outbreaks at area schools, why public schools were not allowed to follow.

Teacher’s unions have repeatedly expressed concern for their members, who were not among the Phase 1a group of workers prioritized by Governor Gavin Newsom. Newsom has since included them in the state’s next grouping.

The governor said last week that he does not expect to have all teachers vaccinated soon — or even by the end of the school year. Newsom does, however, think schools can be reopened despite that.

“We can safely do that before every single person is vaccinated,” he said.

California Department of Public Health data from January 1- February 1 confirmed 87 outbreaks in open CA schools. Of those, 42 were in primary schools, 33 in secondary and 12 in colleges. An outbreak is defined as the infection of three or more people at one time.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday that the district has done its part in comprehensively ensuring that every campus is safe, including:

-Retrofitted 80 million square feet of space of school buildings to make sure air is properly filtered

-Cleaned and sanitized every room in every school

-Provided masks and PPE

-Reconfigured classrooms and facilities to maintain social distance;

-Created a school-based COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program.

The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control released new guidelines for children in schools just last week.

Beutner also announced that the LAUSD’s first school-based COVID-19 vaccination center would open Wednesday at Roybal Learning Center at 1200 Colton St. near downtown Los Angeles. Moderna vaccines will be administered by LAUSD school nurses and other licensed health care professionals.

Microsoft, Anthem and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are joining the effort, and LAUSD’s vaccination effort will use a system built with Microsoft, including registration and scheduling, tracking vaccines in stock and contact tracing.

Beutner said officials were working to open as many school-based sites as possible.

The health department’s entire Monday evening statement reads as follows:

The state permits elementary schools to reopen as soon as we reach an adjusted case rate of 25 per 100,000. We are informing Los Angeles County schools tonight via an emailed letter that we expect to announce we have reached this threshold effective Tuesday, February 16.

This encouraging news means that dozens of elementary schools will be permitted to reopen for in-class instruction for students grades TK-6 as early as this week.

All schools wishing to reopen must submit plans to the County Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health certifying that they have implemented a full range of safety measures to permit a safe reopening.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer will release additional information Tuesday afternoon at a media briefing at 2:00 p.m. This is an encouraging milestone and we look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure safety for students, teachers and staff returning to schools.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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