LA County will soon reach state benchmark allowing schools to reopen, health officials say

Coronavirus cases have subsided so much that Los Angeles County is on the cusp of meeting the threshold needed for districts to reopen elementary school classes for in-person learning, health officials announced Monday night.

“The state permits elementary schools to reopen as soon as we reach an adjusted case rate of 25 per 100,000,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials said in a statement. “We are informing Los Angeles County schools tonight (Monday) via an emailed letter that we expect to announce we have reached this threshold effective Tuesday, Feb. 16.”

While this does not mean schools will automatically reopen, it means districts will be permitted to offer in-class instruction for students in grades TK-6 under the state’s guidelines—something that hadn’t happened in LA County previously without the help of a waiver from a local health department.

All schools wishing to reopen must submit plans to the County Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health certifying that they have implemented a full range of safety measures to permit a safe reopening.

The Long Beach Unified School District has been preparing to reopen some schools on March 1, a decision that was dependent on LA County reaching the state-mandated benchmark.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer was expected to release additional information at a news briefing scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Her department on Monday issued the following statement: “This is an encouraging milestone and we look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure safety for students, teachers and staff returning to schools.”

Reaching the state benchmark, however, does not mean all the details are ironed out for the LBUSD to begin reopening.

Teachers, for instance, have been frustrated with the local vaccine rollout, with their union arguing they shouldn’t be required to return to the classroom until they are inoculated.

Long Beach has vowed to give all LBUSD teachers in second grade and below their first shot by the end of this week, but it’s less clear when all elementary school teachers will receive their vaccines.

The LBUSD board of education is scheduled to hear an update on school reopening plans at its meeting Wednesday.

City News Service and Breaking News Editor Jeremiah Dobruck contributed to this report.

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