As the Los Angeles Unified School District enters its second week of the school year, Superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday addressed the possibility of reopening campuses as the county starts to see a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
While Los Angeles County is seeing a decline in the level of new coronavirus cases, Beutner noted that the figure is still above California guidelines of 100 new cases per 100,000 people.
“It will take some time and continued safe health practices before Los Angeles approaches these levels,” he said.
The county also remains on the state’s monitoring list.
While LAUSD goes on with its virtual learning plan, the superintendent said district officials will be studying what’s happening with school reopenings across the county — including New York’s hybrid instructional program, which begins after Labor Day — and learn from those.
The nation’s second-largest school district will also be monitoring districts in other California cities, like San Fransisco and San Diego, that are closer to the state’s reopening guidelines, to see what path they choose for their schools.
“Our efforts to protect the health and safety of all in the school community will include
state of the art health practices and an unprecedented effort of testing for the virus and
contact tracing at schools,” Beutner said.
One of the keys steps to restarting in-classroom learning will be the district’s ambitious testing and contact tracing program, which Beutner acknowledged has been an enormous undertaking. A number of companies and experts are involved in the expansive effort, including Microsoft, Anthem Blue Cross, Johns Hopkins University and UCLA.
Officials are currently training school nurses to administer tests and contact tracers to follow up on the results.
The first tests for staff were pushed back due to the recent heat wave, but are slated to begin this week, according to the superintendent.
“All of the people involved in this effort have been working around the clock to get the
program started in the right way,” he said. “We pushed the start of testing back a few days due to
the extreme heat last week as the testing materials may not be stable at high temperatures. We want to make sure the results are sound.”
LAUSD’s school year started entirely online last week, with attendance on the first day just slightly down from last year, according to Beutner.
He noted that some people were impacted by power outages that occurred amid a surge in demand amid the sweltering heat wave. He’s asked state and local authorities to minimize rolling blackouts during school hours.