Barger, Wilk support in-person learning should local school districts’ request waiver

Students at an elementary school in Santa Clarita walk to their classrooms on the first day of school in Aug. 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, declared their support Monday should local school districts ask the state to allow them to resume in-person instruction. 

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that Los Angeles County, and 32 other counties on California’s coronavirus monitoring list for worsening COVID-19 trends, will not be allowed to reopen for on-campus learning until they have not been on the list for 14 straight days. 

There is one exception. Local health officers may grant waivers to allow elementary schools to resume in-person classes if district superintendents request a waiver in consultation with labor, parents and community-based organizations, according to state officials. 

“When considering a waiver request, the local health officer must consider local data and consult with the California Department of Public Health,” read a news release issued Friday by the Governor’s Office. 

In the Santa Clarita Valley, the Castaic Union School District and William S. Hart Union High School District have announced plans to start the fall trimester/semester with online learning.

Local school districts have not yet announced whether they would request a waiver. Should any of them do so, Wilk and Barger will support their decision, they said Monday in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, citing that cities in the northern portion of L.A. County are different than those in other communities.

“We appreciate your commitment to navigating this complexity and how a one-size-fits-all approach will not meet the needs of our communities,” read the letter. “We are writing to you on behalf of our shared constituents in the North Los Angeles County (the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys), who may wish to apply for this waiver.” 

The supervisor and senator added that while they have closely monitored COVID-19’s impact on the health of their communities, “we are also concerned with the social, economic and educational impacts this virus has created. This is not truer than for our children. These classrooms will not only begin to bridge the gaps created by distance learning this past spring, but also develop a blueprint that other districts in Los Angeles County can follow.” 

Their letter to Newsom comes after county Department of Public Health officials announced Saturday that, since the onset of the pandemic, 11,000 children and teens have been diagnosed with the virus, as a surge in overall cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue. 

“Learning is non-negotiable,” Newsom said Friday. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open – and when it must close – but learning should never stop. Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”

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