LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Unified will offer all students the choice of returning to full-time instruction on campus this fall, although distance learning will also be available, school district officials announced today.
Superintendent Austin Beutner said he expects the vast majority of students, teachers and staff to be at school every day starting in August, but there will be an online option for those who are unable or choose not to return to the classroom.
School campuses, which closed due to the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, began reopening again this spring on a limited or hybrid digital basis with rigorous safety standards in place, as well as a COVID-19 testing program. Vaccines are available for eligible students.
Beutner said it remains unclear what safety standards will still be required in the fall.
“We expect students and staff will continue to wear masks until more children have been vaccinated,'' he said. “But August is still three months away and we can't predict exactly what standards health authorities will tell us are appropriate at that time. ... While we have some sense of what school will look like, our COVID crystal ball is not perfect.''
In the meantime, district officials are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.
“Ninety percent of people on a school campus at any point in time are children. Herd immunity won't be reached in schools or in the broader community until children are vaccinated,'' Beutner said about the district, which serves almost 650,000 students in schools spread across 710 square miles. Of those students, almost 300,000 are ages 12 and older who are now eligible for the vaccine.
The district is planning to offer vaccines at each middle and high school campus at least once before the school year ends on June 11 and again during the summer. To incentivize the shots, food trucks will provide refreshments for students and their family members, and schools where more than 30% of students are vaccinated will each receive $5,000 for projects at their school.
UCLA pediatrician Jennifer Brazier Peralta joined the superintendent during his weekly briefing this week to encourage all parents to consider vaccinating their children. She emphasized that children can unknowingly contract and spread the virus, just like adults.
“Children can still get very, very sick from COVID,'' she said. “Vaccination is one of the best ways to keep them safe and their families safe as well.''
Adults must accompany minors receiving a vaccine.
“Because health authorities require a family member to accompany anyone under 16 when they are being vaccinated, Los Angeles Unified will provide paid time off to all staff to be able to help their children,'' Beutner said, noting that other agencies also are encouraging and offering paid time off for parents to vaccinate their children, including the Department of Water and Power, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Central City Association of Los Angeles, and Valley Industry and Commerce Association.
“We want to encourage every eligible child to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves, their families and our community,'' LADWP General Manager and Chief Engineer Martin L. Adams said. “We hope other major employers will join us in supporting employees in taking steps to get every eligible child vaccinated. Employees shouldn't have to choose between a couple of hours' wages and the health and welfare of their child and family.''
While campaigning for students to get vaccinated, the district is also beginning to plan commencement ceremonies, which took place virtually last year due to the pandemic. Beutner said graduation is an important part of any child's journey.
And beyond graduation, the district has confirmed that it will offer summer school for all students with on-campus and at-home options.
Anyone with questions about receiving a free vaccination at a neighborhood school may call the Family Vaccination Hotline at 213-328-3958 or visit LAUSD's website at https://achieve.lausd.net/domain/4.
Photo: Getty Images
Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.