Los Angeles, CA — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has passed a proposal put forward by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl to assist schools across the county as they work to reopen and allow students to return to classrooms. The effort aims to address barriers that make it difficult for school districts in low income communities from meeting safety guidelines for reopening.
“Our kids need to be back in classrooms and I don’t want any school to be unable to reopen because of a lack of resources,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We are going to give one million high quality masks out of our county’s stockpile to schools that need them and connect school districts with resources so they can get ventilation equipment in classrooms to keep students and teachers alike safe.”
The motion approved yesterday will mean the County will equitably distribute 1 million high-quality masks to the County’s 81 school districts and help connect school districts with funding for upgraded ventilation systems and information they need to set up testing programs.
“Over the last year, we’ve learned a lot about how to keep teachers and students safe in elementary schools,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “Masks and adequate ventilation are very important which is why this motion focuses on those two elements. Nothing we do can bring COVID19 transmission risk to absolute zero. Our focus now must be on reopening those sectors that can be safely reopened, vigilantly adhering to recommended protocols, so we can minimize the likelihood of transmission.”
In LA County, COVID-19 case rates are down 90% from last month. On February 16, cases in LA County dropped below the State’s threshold to allow schools to reopen for in-classroom learning for grades K-6. Schools are required to take steps to make classroom learning safer for teachers and students alike. This includes masking, adequate ventilation, regular testing, and contact tracing protocols.
As school districts have moved to reopen with plans to vaccinate teachers and other school staff starting March 1st, public schools in lower income areas have found it more difficult to overcome hurdles to reopening safely. A recent survey of 20 school districts in Los Angeles County demonstrated that schools in more affluent areas are moving faster to reopen than those in lower-income communities.
“We hope to reopen our schools soon, but we face significant general fund expenditures and those expenditures may create barriers in delivering a quality education to our students,” said Dr. Gary Gonzales, Superintendent of the South Whittier School District who called into the Board meeting to support the proposal. “The support that item 42-J would provide in the form of PPE, assistance in improving HVAC systems & establishing a testing cadence, would make for a potential savings to our general fund, but more importantly provide for a safe transition back to the classroom and provide peace of mind to parents as they send their students back to school.”