LAUSD decrees mandatory testing for students, teachers before classes resume
All Los Angeles Unified School District students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they can return to campuses when school resumes next week, the district announced on Monday, Jan. 3.
The first day of the spring semester for students has been pushed back to Tuesday, Jan. 11. Monday will be a “pupil-free day” for campus employees, according to an LAUSD spokesperson.
This updated guidance and more information is now available at https://achieve.lausd.net/spring2022 and on the district’s social media platforms.
The changes were announced hours after the LAUSD Board of Education held an abruptly scheduled closed-door meeting Monday morning.
“Our goal has always been to keep kids safe and in the classroom for in-person learning,” school board Vice President Nick Melvoin. “To continue meeting that goal amid changing health conditions and the new omicron variant, we will be requiring baseline testing for all students and staff before they return to school campuses next week. The district is expanding our testing capacity, availability, and access to ensure the feasibility of this necessary protocol update. It is my hope that this will help us continue meeting our goal of keeping schools open safely while providing as much peace of mind as possible amid this challenging moment.”
According to the district, students and employees can get tested at district sites starting immediately, with appointments available online at lausd.net/covidtestingappt or by calling 213-443-1300 . Walk-in testing is also available at district sites, and at-home testing kits will be available for students beginning Friday.
Students and employees can also get tested at non-district sites, but they must upload results onto the district’s Daily Pass system no later than Sunday.
Students and employees at LAUSD campuses and all other schools in the county will also be subject to stricter COVID safety protocols, which were announced on New Year’s Eve by the county Department of Public Health.
The rules require all students and staff to wear masks outdoors “where physical distancing is not feasible,” and employees must wear upgraded surgical or higher-level masks instead of cloth ones.
The new rules recommend, but do not require, students to wear non-cloth masks “with a nose wire.” The requirement for upgraded masks — which must be provided to staff by districts — will take effect two weeks after schools reopen.
The revised protocols from the county also include a “strong recommendation for all eligible staff and students to receive a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in addition to their primary vaccine series.”
COVID testing is also required “for all close contacts who are permitted to remain in school immediately after exposure, regardless of vaccination or booster status.”
Meanwhile, students in the Burbank Unified School District were returning to class as scheduled on Monday, after the Board of Education decided not to delay reopening by one week in light of the current surge of COVID-19 infections. The panel held a 3 1/2-hour emergency meeting Sunday night to consider the delay.
Superintendent Matt Hill announced the decision on the district’s Facebook page. “After a robust discussion, the Board of Education decided that schools remain open.”
District administrators will consider changes in its COVID safety plan this week including possible mandatory testing for students and staff and enforcing a vaccine booster requirement for all employees by April 1.
Late last week, the superintendent informed parents of updated requirements for this week’s return to school, including requiring all students and staff to wear masks outdoors, employees being required to wear surgical masks provided by the District and recommending that students wear non-cloth masks with a nose wire.
The district has 11 elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools and five alternative schools.
Other schools in Los Angeles County may face similar choices, though some were not planning on resuming classes until next week or later.
The Long Beach Unified School District’s approximately 75,000 students returned to classes as usual on Monday, Jan. 3. LBUSD public information officer Chris Eftychiou said district officials believe in-person learning is vital, and COVID precautions now in place are sufficient.
“The majority of our employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, and many eligible students have become vaccinated in recent months,” Eftychiou said in an email. “Given these factors and others, including the positive impact that we know in-person instruction has upon academic achievement and student well-being, we will continue to do all that we can to keep our campuses open in a safe manner, with reasonable precautions.”
On the Palos Verdes Peninsula, school officials scrambled over the weekend to distribute home COVID-19 tests to its students to ensure a healthy start to the school week.
About 2,000 tests were distributed on Sunday, Jan. 2, said Linda Reid, Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District president.
The tests, said Reid, had been procured in the fall when athletes were required to be tested ahead of the high school sports season. Volunteers had to break down the kits — which are normally in sets of 20 — and repackage them with individual instructions, Reid said.
After they ran out of home kits, said Reid, they directed families to head over to Rancho Del Mar High School where PVPUSD had a drive-through testing site set up. The nurses there, who swabbed noses, tested an additional 2,000 students, said Reid.
The distribution of home tests to school families was important, said Reid, because parents want to ensure they can send their children to school in person.
“We want to ensure that school remains open and this is our best shot at doing that,” said Reid.
Alhambra Unified School District returned to school Monday, and Superintendent Denise Jaramillo said she is intent on doing all she can to keep everyone out of harm’s way.
“Our laser focus is on keeping kids safe and in class,” she said. “Since last week our team has been working even more closely with DPH to put in place their newest guidelines as well as some of our own. Because the situation changes so quickly we are asking our community to follow AUSD social media for the most up-to-date news.
“Both students and staff must upgrade to medical masks. No cloth masks permitted. We do have some supply of surgical masks but we ask families and employees to provide their own if at all possible. Masks must be worn both indoors and outdoors.”
The district doesn’t stop there.
“We are working out plans for new daily by-appointment antigen testing to begin this week to allow those who no longer have symptoms to return to school on Day 6 if they have a negative test,” Jaramillo said.
“We are updating our isolation and quarantine protocols per DPH regulations. Only those who are double- vaccinated and boosted, if eligible, are considered fully protected. We are working with community partners to find more antigen tests and also to set up a series of clinics for vaccines and boosters.”
Jaramillo and her staff are preparing for any and all situations as they pertains to in-person instruction.
“We will continue our weekly COVID surveillance testing for all students and staff,” she said. “All students must be registered for AUSD testing or be asked to leave in-person classes. That date has not been set, but it will be very soon.
“Unregistered students would have to go to our short term Independent Study until they register — which is different from our Virtual Study TK-12 Program.”
Jaramillo said that even as the district is doing all it can to test and upgrade safeguards for students and staff, she realizes it’s smart to draw up a plan for a potential return to virtual learning in case some classes and schools close for a period of time, if only briefly.
“Our students are asked to take home their Chromebook every night in case of such an eventuality,” Jaramillo said. “Our teachers are updating their tech platforms to be ready, if needed.”
The winter surge has proved unnerving for educators, hospital officials, front-line health teams and myriad other L.A. County residents.
County public health officials reported nearly 45,000 new cases of COVID-19 this weekend, an alarmingly high number in light of the typical delays in weekend reporting.
Officials reported 23,553 new cases for Saturday, and another 21,200 positive tests Sunday, after a one-day record of 27,091 new infections were reported Friday.
Four additional deaths related to the coronavirus were also logged this weekend, two each on Saturday and Sunday.
The latest numbers bring the county’s cumulative totals to 1,741,292 cases and 27,640 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Meanwhile, the county’s COVID hospitalizations continued to rise, jumping by more than 150 for the second consecutive day. The number of COVID patients in county hospitals rose to 1,792, up from 1,628 on Saturday, according to the latest state figures. Of those patients, 263 were in intensive care, up from 246 the previous day.
The daily test positivity rate was 21.8% as of Sunday.
Health officials continued to urge residents to curtail higher-risk activities, including indoor activities where individuals are unmasked for long periods of time, as well as crowded outdoor events.