As summer slowly draws to a close, thoughts turn from vacation time and barbecues to education and school. And with the loss of over a year of in-person school for students in many parts of the country due to the covid-19 pandemic, both parents and students are eager for a return to the classroom.
The Los Angeles Unified School District will open its doors on Monday, Aug.16, but with several new protocols in place to address the potential dangers of having hundreds of students gathered at each individual school site.
Some of the new safety protocols include:
- Indoor masking requirement for everyone at K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.
- Revised testing recommendations to include vaccinated individuals after COVID-19 exposure.
- Employees exempt from wearing masks indoors must be tested at least twice per week.
- Masks are not required when an individual is the only person present in a room or contiguous workspace.
- Students granted a reasonable accommodation in the form of mask exemption due to a disability or other condition need not be excluded from in-person education but it is strongly recommended that such students be tested for COVID-19 at least twice weekly.
- Students who are excluded from campus because they will not wear a face covering should be offered alternative educational opportunities.
- Physical distancing strategies are still recommended as long as they do not interfere with full-time attendance for all students
- PE classes fall under the 100% masking requirement if class is held indoors.
- Fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts to a case do not need to quarantine, but it is strongly recommended that such individuals be tested after exposure regardless of vaccination status.
Lucas Fitzgerald, principal of Pacific Lutheran Junior and Senior High School, whose school opens Sept. 1, said they will follow all of the LA County protocols and will offer 100 percent in-person learning this fall.
“The law is that you wear a mask indoors and we intend to follow the law,” Fitzgerald said. “Outdoors you don’t need masks so if we do any outdoor instruction, masks aren’t needed.”
Since the pandemic safety mandates 18 months ago, Fitzgerald said his school has had live daily instruction with full classes either in person or remote through Microsoft Teams.
In addition, they also kept students and teachers safe with no outbreaks of COVID.
“We’re proud that since the pandemic began, we have given live daily instruction eight hours a day since the pandemic began,” he said. “We didn’t limit instructional minutes, we didn’t limit or change our instructional materials or how many times teachers needed to interact with kids, so students were put first at school during the pandemic and we’re happy to continue to do it”
Angela Grey, principal of St. Anthony of Padua School in Gardena whose school will open Aug. 18, said that safety guidelines have already been put in place at her school.
“We have installed new water bottle filling stations around school, we have thermometer scanner kiosks, cots for the quarantine room, signage all around campus, plexiglass/acrylic barriers for staff, and barriers for each student, face shields, hand sanitizing stations, and face masks for students during indoor learning,” Grey said. “We are following all the protocols from the CDC and LA County and are updated weekly by our ADLA Superintendent.”
In terms of in-person learning, Grey said her school will offer in-person learning five days per week, just as it was pre-pandemic, barring any updated CDC protocols or guidelines.
While the worst of the pandemic might be over and most states have returned to a modified version of “normal,” a new strain of the virus known as the Delta variant has emerged.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Delta variant is more contagious and spreads faster than any other strain and as of Aug. 9, accounts for about 83 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 cases.
Grey’s back-to-school protocols have already accounted for the Delta variant.
“All individuals vaccinated or not need to wear masks indoors until further notice,” she said. “Testing would have to occur more often. Unmasked individuals with doctor’s notes to not wear masks should get tested twice a week per guidelines.”
COVID-19 came to the world’s attention after an outbreak occurred in Wuhan, China in 2019. Because the disease spread quickly across several countries and affected a large number of people, it was classified as a pandemic.
A new strain of COVID-19 known as the Delta variant was first identified in India in late 2020. By the April 2021, the strain had sent the country into one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks.
With the vast majority of India’s population yet to receive a vaccine dose, hospitals were pushed past their limits, and the virus killed several hundred thousand people in the weeks that followed, according to official tolls.
Since then, the delta variant has spread to more than 100 countries.