Los Angeles Unified School District
Austin Beutner

Los Angeles, San Diego districts will not have in-person classes when schools resume

July 13, 2020
Having students return to classrooms is too risky amid surging coronavirus infections, administrators say.

California’s two largest public school districts have announced that instruction will be remote-only when the 2020-21 school year begins, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections pose too much of a risk for students and teachers.

The New York Times reports that the Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts, which together enroll about 825,000 students, are the largest so far in the country to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August.

More than a third of California’s coronavirus cases are in Los Angeles County, and San Diego County has had 18 community outbreaks over the past week, more than double the state’s acceptable threshold.

“The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise," says Austin Beutner, the school superintendent in Los Angeles. "The news about the spread of the virus continues to be of great concern. Last week was the worst yet in the Los Angeles area.”

The joint announcement came as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continued to press the Trump administration’s case to reopen public schools, not only for students’ social and emotional development, but also to allow parents to return to work fully.

The recommendations from the president and DeVos have been disputed by many public health officials and teachers. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and AASA, the School Superintendents Association issued a statement saying that reopening recommendations should be “based on evidence, not politics.”

[READ L.A. superintendent's full statement.]

California’s death toll from the coronavirus rose to more than 7,000 over the weekend, with 7.5 percent or more of test results coming back positive over the past two weeks, even as testing has ramped up to more than 100,000 tests a day.

For the time being, the Los Angeles district will maintain the online instruction it has been providing since its 700,000 students and 75,000 employees were sent home in mid-March. He said the decision will be revisited when local infection rates have been sufficiently lowered and public health authorities have established adequate testing and contact tracing systems.

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