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Virus surge in Los Angeles County is endangering plans to reopen schools

July 8, 2020
The county's public health director says schools must continue to develop plans for students to take classes entirely from home.

The pending reopening of K-12 campuses in Los Angeles County is at risk because of the ongoing surge of coronavirus cases, the county's top public health official has told local education leaders.

The Los Angeles Times reports that L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told district superintendents and others that all public and private schools must prepare for students to continue learning entirely from home.

“Every single school district at this point needs to have plans in place to continue distance learning for 100% of the time,” Ferrer said. “We would be irresponsible if we didn’t say to you that you have to have the backup plan ready.”

Ferrer also said she remained hopeful that campuses could reopen and said administrators should continue to develop those plans as well. The county has 80 school districts that serve about 1.5 million children.

“I think it’s completely appropriate to move forward with our plans as we had anticipated before — hoping that there would be opportunity to allow for children and teachers and staff to get back into their buildings, to really have the enriched educational experience that everyone is so desperate for,” she said. “That also has huge implications for working parents.”

All the same, “it would be foolish, given where our numbers are, for school districts not to have that [distance learning] plan in their back pocket,” she said.

The debate over how and when to reopen schools was amplified this week by President Trump, who said all campuses should reopen for students five days a week. Nothing like that is being seriously considered for most students in California, where school systems are working out hybrid schedules, in which students would be on campus part-time in small groups, while working the rest of the time at home, both online and offline.

The Trump administration also has pressured colleges and universities to return to a more normal schedule.

L.A. Unified, the nation's second largest district, is scheduled to begin its academic year on Aug. 18. Supt. Austin Beutner says the district has made no decision on whether the district will offer a hybrid schedule or whether classes will remain exclusively online.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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