LBUSD schools will stay closed until March 1, district announces

The Long Beach Unified School District announced Monday that its campuses will remain mostly closed until at least March 1, which pushes back the previous Jan. 28 date for reopening by a little more than a month.

The campuses will continue to allow Kids Club and other daycare programs that are operating. About 1,600 of the district’s 70,000 students are on campus in those programs.

The extended closure comes amid an unprecedentedly large surge of COVID-19 cases in Long Beach and throughout Los Angeles County.

Even if the district chose to keep the Jan. 28 reopening date, it’s unclear if they would have been allowed to proceed. The district’s ability to host in-person classes is tied to state’s monitoring system. For schools to reopen widely, LA County would have to drop into the less-restrictive “red tier,” something that never happened even when cases were at much lower levels locally.

Even on mostly closed LBUSD campuses, cases have been spiking, with 39 positive results so far in the first two weeks of December. The district had 39 positives in November with just 38 cases in September and October combined.

One senior district source, who asked to remain unnamed to describe internal discussions, said the district is “acutely” aware of the necessity to get kids back on campus as soon as possible, and that the March 1 closure should not be seen as a shutdown of in-person learning for the entire school year.

Political pressure has also mounted recently for schools to return to in-person services, with Long Beach Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell recently calling the continued closures “state-sanctioned segregation.”

LBUSD leadership on Monday released a lengthy video explaining their rationale and outlook.

The video stressed that the district feels a sense of community responsibility in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“Aside from the school district’s obligation to follow state criteria for reopening, LBUSD also takes seriously its community obligation to ease the burden on the region’s already strained hospitals and frontline health care workers while lowering the risk of serious illness for vulnerable populations,” it said.

Superintendent Jill Baker also emphasized that the LBUSD is prepared to open campuses immediately when they’re allowed to by county and city health regulations.

“The moment that we’re able to reopen schools, we’re ready to do so,” said Baker. “We have the necessary equipment, the safety protocols are in place, and our facilities are ready.”

The district also said that if March 1 does not work for a reopening, the next target date would be April 12, following the conclusion of the LBUSD’s spring break.

March 1 will mark almost a year since the schools closed on March 13 of 2020, and the district is not planning on applying for waivers to reopen K-second grade for in-person learning, which health officials are currently allowing under health orders.

The city has granted waivers for nine private schools, mostly in East Long Beach, to resume in-person learning for kindergarten through second graders. Those schools have been allowed to keep operating even as the state placed Southern California under strict new stay-home orders.

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