LA schools drop aggressive COVID-19 safety rules

On Tuesday, Los Angeles school leaders officially opted out of COVID-19 safety protocols that were among the most extensive in the nation, opting instead to reflect current county requirements and operate in line with most other school districts. .

What this means for students and parents is an end to weekly universal testing for coronavirus infections, no baseline testing until school starts on August 15, voluntary masking and a continued postponement of the term. district vaccination program for students at the nation’s second largest school. system.

Additionally, the district’s daily pass system will diminish from its previous use as a requirement for entry to campus that had to be inspected daily. Last year, under this system, to enter the school grounds, students had to be up to date on weekly COVID-19 tests and they or their parents also had to affirm that students do not showed no symptoms of illness. The Daily Pass system will instead be used to upload positive test results or report symptoms as needed and on a voluntary basis.

Like many other school systems, LA Unified has moved to “response testing” — where testing is needed for those who are sick, who are close contacts, or when there is a risk of an outbreak.

LA Unified School District officials stressed that no one should go to school sick.

“Perfect attendance is not as important as the safety, security and well-being of our students and workforce,” LA Unified Supt said. Alberto Carvalho said during an appearance last week.

Under county guidelines, students and staff must isolate for at least five days if they test positive for coronavirus infection — up from the mandatory 10 days or more at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Additionally, home quarantines for close contacts – which had also lasted up to 10 days – are no longer necessary for people who remain healthy and test negative.

“We know COVID-19 is here to stay,” the district said in a letter released Tuesday. “As we have entered a new phase of this virus where we have accessible home testing, COVID-19 vaccines and treatments available for treatment, Los Angeles Unified is able to adapt quickly to changing conditions. .”

Carvalho had glimpsed most of these policies in recent appearances. The district’s previous strict mask, vaccination and testing mandates had parents divided. This dynamic continues.

As of Tuesday morning, nearly 6,000 parents, concerned about the risks posed by high levels of transmission in the community, had taken part in a coordinated letter-writing campaign demanding that the school board engage more strongly on safety issues. Among the parents was Alexis Rochlin, who has a son entering second grade in the western area of ​​the district.

“While I think many of us had hoped that COVID would be far behind us by now, unfortunately that is not the case, and we plan to start the school year without meaningful mitigations,” Rochlin wrote. in an email to The Times.

She and other like-minded parents want the school district to improve indoor air quality by paying more attention to HVAC systems, high-quality HEPA filtration, and low-efficiency DIY filters. expensive. She would also like students to eat outside and school bus windows to remain open. In addition, parents would like authorities to change their minds and conduct baseline testing before the start of the school year and expand surge and post-exposure testing for students and staff, while providing testing sites. fixed testing in each of the more than 40 designated school communities. .

“These common-sense, cost-effective measures will prevent the spread of disease in our schools, reduce the length of absence for sick students and staff, and improve equitable access to clean air and testing,” Rocklin said. .

Several parents echoed those concerns in public comments at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Carvalho insisted in an interview that he was just as concerned about safety as the parents who signed the letters. But the campuses, he said, are reasonably safe based on the measures already in place, the relatively high vaccination rates among students and the vaccination mandate enforced among employees.

He added that he agrees that indoor air quality is important, but that LA Unified has already installed high-quality filters in HVAC systems, changed them regularly and will continue to do so. These systems are set to filter the air around the clock. Spot air quality testing indicates these practices are working, he said.

In its letter, the district also highlighted enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures.

In the interview, the superintendent also defended the return of breakfast in class. County health officials are still strongly recommending masking indoors, which would not be possible with a breakfast inside the classroom. Lunch periods are usually outdoors in a sheltered area.

“Everything is a balance, right?” said Carvalho. “If we want more students to enjoy breakfast, having breakfast in a classroom makes perfect sense.”

Reasonable safety would be ensured by following protocols including social distancing “where possible” and personal hygiene.

“And really, the most important thing is – if there’s a child who has symptoms, the parents have to keep them at home,” Carvalho said. “If we follow this advice, everything should be fine. But a lot of personal responsibility goes with that.

At the start of the pandemic, LA Unified stood out for having some of the most aggressive security measures in the country. These included universal weekly testing, the use of masks both outdoors and indoors, and vaccination mandates for students and employees.

The teachers’ union – which has always pushed for aggressive security measures – has expressed concern over the district’s new leadership under recently appointed Carvalho.

“We believe the district should have maintained its testing program,” United Teachers Los Angeles said in a statement.

Many parents support Carvalho’s approach.

“No more masking and a normal school year is what I’m hoping for and looking forward to for my daughter,” said Erin Kyle, who just moved from Studio City to Westside and has a daughter coming into eigth year. “Yes, we’ve been vaxxed and boosted and it’s time to get back to normal.”

“As a parent, I’m encouraged by the new superintendent,” said Hugo Schwyzer, a Mid-City resident with a daughter in eighth grade and a son in fifth grade. “Right now, my two kids are mostly looking forward to seeing old friends and buying new clothes. This ritual, thankfully, never changes.

Los Angeles Times

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