LIVE CHAT: LBUSD superintendent talks ‘easing in’ to new school year with COVID-19 rules

Today Long Beach sports and education reporter Mike Guardabascio spoke with Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Jill Baker about the district’s reopening plans and COVID-19 safety measures.

With school kicking off for in-person lessons for students, Baker said the district will be “easing in” to the school year and focus more on emotional support for students. That means no tests or big assignments, she said. She acknowledges that students haven’t been in the classroom for more than a year.

“They seek the relationships between their teachers and with their friends,” Baker said.

LBUSD leaders announced last week that the district will conduct “surveillance” COVID-19 testing on unvaccinated students. Baker said the testing will be conducted via external nasal swabbing, which is painless and just takes 10 seconds, she said.

All district classroom have some type of ventilation system, many of which have received upgraded heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

“One of the silver linings of our pandemic has been the acceleration of our construction projects,” Baker said.

Baker encouraged outdoor classroom activities, preferably under shaded areas, and recommended that students are wearing sunscreen.

Schools that had uniform policies will resume those policies when students return to campuses. If parents need uniforms, Baker said schools have a “backstock of uniforms” for parents. Financial assistance for uniforms is available to students from low-income families, according the the district website.

The district will also require masks to be worn indoors with outdoor use as optional.

During last week’s LBUSD Board of Education meeting, dozens protested mask mandates and vaccine requirements amid an uptick in COVID cases in Long Beach.

“That was a very emotional meeting,” Baker said.

Taking direction from the city’s health department, Baker said the district is approaching this in the safest way. But, even with all of the health and safety protocols in place, the district can only “manage” the spread by COVID-19, not eliminate it, Baker said.

Should it be necessary, she said that classes or schools could be quarantined in case of an outbreak. If a student is exposed and needs to be quarantined, which Baker said could happen, the district already has distanced learning accommodations in place such as using Canvas, a learning management system, to send virtual assignments.

“We’re prepared for it,” she said.

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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