LA Unified announces campuses will remain closed when school starts in August

The head of the Los Angeles Unified School District announced Monday morning that campuses will not reopen when classes begin for the fall semester in August, a significant development as educators try to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced in a video message that the district’s campuses will remain closed, saying the “health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise.”

Officials for Long Beach Unified have said that their plan so far is to move forward with allowing some in-person education at local campuses, with virtual and hybrid options available to families.

Incoming Superintendent Jill Baker announced last week that the district would restrict class sizes to 14 to 17 students, that all students, faculty and staff would be required to wear face coverings and that classrooms would receive personal protective equipment.

Parents could also opt for virtual education or a hybrid with in-person and online classes.

The district’s spokesman, Chris Eftychiou, said Monday morning that officials are having conversations with the Teachers Association of Long Beach and the city’s health department.

In his announcement Monday, Beutner cited the rising positivity rate and other key health indicators for the decision.

“The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control,” LAUSD said in a statement.

The decision comes days after the union representing the Los Angeles district’s teachers announced results of a poll showing that 83% of instructors opposed returning to in-person classes.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Board of Education is scheduled to meet tonight to discuss a recommendation from a panel of experts that determined it is safe to open schools next month without social distancing.

The developments come as the Trump Administration has been adamant that school campuses should reopen in the fall, even hinting that the federal government might withhold funding from jurisdictions that fail to return to in-person instruction.

Beutner challenged the federal government to instead allocate money to schools for testing and contact tracing, which he said are critically needed for schools to reopen.

“Testing and contact tracing will cost money. Preliminary estimates in Los Angeles Unified would cost $300 per student over the course of the year to test students and staff every week as well as family members of those who test positive for the virus,” he said, noting that the cost of testing all at public schools across the country would be an estimated $15 billion to cover all 50 million students in the United States.

“Federal officials have recently suggested students need to be in school, and like a Nike ad, told educators: `Just do it.’ We all know the best place for students to learn is a school setting,” Beutner said. “Well, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz might have said, ‘Tap your heels together three times and say there’s no place like home, and you’ll be there’—actually returning to schools is not so simple.”

Los Angeles Unified employs 75,00 people and educates almost 700,000 students, about 80% of those are from families living in poverty.

City News Service contributed to this article. This story will be updated.

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