Just before the new school year began Monday, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced a sweeping initiative to test all students and teachers for COVID-19.
Superintendent Austin Beutner said the district will start “fine tuning systems and operational logistics” before testing staff currently working at schools, as well as employees’ children who receive childcare through LAUSD.
“Tests will then be provided for all staff and students over a period of weeks to establish a baseline,” Beutner said in prepared remarks Monday. “On an ongoing basis, sample testing based on epidemiological models will be done for each cohort of staff and students. Testing will also be provided to family members of students and staff who test positive for the virus and family members who show symptoms.”
The plan will roughly cost $300 per student over a year, Beutner said. He did not immediately disclose where the district, which has nearly 75,000 employees and 700,000 students, will get the funding.
“That is a small fraction of the $17,000 Californians invest each year to educate a student,” the superintendent said. “And the dollars pale in comparison to the importance schools will play in reopening the world’s fifth-largest economy.”
The district is working with UCLA, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net and testing company SummerBio in the effort.
Beutner previously said the reopening of classrooms would require robust testing and contact tracing.
Addressing LAUSD’s announcement, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said all contact tracing must be done through the agency.
“People cannot actually set up separate systems for contact tracing… and I know that the superintendent and his team are well aware of that, but we do appreciate all kinds of efforts to help us,” Ferrer said.
The LAUSD school year begins this week virtually. On Monday, teachers were set to plan and prepare for classes. Principals will meet with families on Tuesday and students will meet with their teachers Wednesday.
Regular schools days start online at 9 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. LAUSD asked families to check their schools’ websites for more information.
The district on Monday also reached a tentative agreement on workplace safety and compensation with the Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents LAUSD workers including bus drivers, food service employees and campus aides.