Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

L.A., San Diego districts say testing and tracing are needed before campuses reopen

June 2, 2020
The superintendents of California's largest 2 districts want health officials to determine when it is appropriate to reopen school campuses.

Raising the possibility that campuses won’t reopen in the fall, leaders of California’s two largest K-12 districts are demanding that public health authorities, not schools, take the lead on setting up coronavirus testing and contact tracing of students and employees.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Los Angeles Supt. Austin Beutner and San Diego Supt. Cindy Marten — whose combined districts represent 915,000 children and workers — issued a public warning: Either their school districts get more funding and assertive health department intervention or they can’t consider reopening campuses in the fall.

“Opening our schools will not be as easy as separating desks or placing pieces of tape on the floor,” Beutner and Marten said in their statement. “A robust system of Covid-19 testing and contact tracing will need to be in place before we can consider reopening schools. Local health authorities, not school districts, have to lead the way on testing, contact tracing and a clear set of protocols on how to respond to any occurrence of the virus.”

Beutner and Martens also said it will be difficult enough to craft effective education programs and carry out reopening plans, without having to devise and pay for public health safety measures.

“Facilities will need to be reconfigured and supplies purchased to sanitize schools on a regular basis. Personal protective equipment will need to be provided to students and staff,” they said in the statement. “More teachers and staff will be needed to do this extra work. ... And state authorities have to provide the funding.”

The statement came after the Los Angeles County Office of Education released guidelines  outlining measures seen as advisable or necessary to reopening schools.

Based on the guidelines, school districts will have to consider staggered schedules that would allow for no more than 12 to 16 in a classroom, where students also would take their meals. Everyone would wear masks all day, and recess or physical education could mean students playing alone with their own ball or hula hoop.

Schools also face questions of how often to sanitize, whether to screen students and staff as they enter and what to do when someone gets sick or could have been exposed to the virus.

The guidelines from the county education office contain no mandates, but “we do recommend that districts follow public health orders,” said county Supt. Debra Duardo.

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