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Back-to-school 2021, with California campuses fully open for 6 million children, was supposed to herald relief — even celebration — for a mostly normal school year ahead. But a surge in the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has reignited parents’ anxiety — and, for many, the safety and quality of schooling once again feel uncertain and tenuous.

“I wanted to be excited about a new school year, but now I am having to think: ‘Am I putting our health at risk by going to school in person?’” said Irma Villalpando, who has two high school daughters at the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies. “I am feeling very sad because I think that it is going to be another very difficult year.”

Some parents have frantically explored limited online options. And questions over safety protocols are taking on an urgent tone: What happens if someone at my child’s school tests positive? What happens if my child is exposed — will their class be quarantined? Will their school close? Are all teachers vaccinated? What about coronavirus testing?

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health disclosed last week that there were seven outbreaks in youth settings during the final week of July — the most since December. Most were associated with youth sports — and heavily associated with poor health safety practices, such as inconsistent mask wearing, lack of physical distancing and failing to isolate sick individuals and their close contacts.

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