L.A. County to allow schools to apply for reopening waivers for TK-2

Los Angeles County Seal.
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow schools to apply for reopening waivers for transitional kindergarten to second-grade students.

“While we’ve opened our schools for individual education programs, this has been limited in its size to the smallest subset of our students,” said county Supervisor Kathyrn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley. “The county cannot fully reopen our schools until we advanced into the state’s second tier, but we can allow waivers for elementary schools. This would allow us to provide limited in-person instruction for the ages of children who benefit most from in-person instruction.” 

The motion allows the county’s Department of Public Health to implement the school waiver program for grades transitional kindergarten through two, starting at 30 schools per week, while prioritizing schools with a high number of low-income students.

This prioritization would be done by the issuance of waivers to schools with a higher percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced meals, equally divided among the five supervisorial districts in the county.

This comes as Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced that the county’s metrics continue to put the county in the highest-risk “purple” tier in the state’s blueprint for reopening.

“We will not be moving to Tier 2. Our metrics, as posted this week by the state, continue to put us squarely in Tier 1,” Ferrer said. 

In order to move into Tier 2, which would allow for more reopenings, a county’s case rate must be at or below seven new diagnoses per 100,000 residents per day with a testing positivity rate of 5-8% — continuing to meet these metrics for two consecutive weeks before moving into this tier.

According to the state’s metrics for L.A. County released Tuesday based on results from the week ending Sept. 19, the county’s seven-day average positivity rate is 2.9%, and though its case rate is significantly above the threshold at 8.9 per 100,000 residents, its adjusted case rate is 7.3, which is adjusted depending on the county’s testing volume.

Last week, the county’s adjusted case rate stood at 7.0, meaning if the county had held those metrics, it could be on the path to moving into Tier 2. With the new metrics, that two-week counter has been reset. 

Even so, per the state’s guidelines, though schools may not reopen fully for in-person instruction until the county moves into Tier 2, local school and health officials can decide to open elementary schools.

“Given the size and scope of L.A. County, our residents have done an admirable job containing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Barger added. “As October approaches, it’s critical that we begin the process of reopening our schools at a limited capacity, recognizing the school waivers must go through the county and then approved by the state … to slowly bring students, teachers and staff back to campus.”

The motion also would require Public Health to provide biweekly updates on the waiver

application process and compliance at reopened schools, along with contact tracing workflow and the data recorded regarding school exposures, while continuing to ensure public health protocols are properly implemented prior to school reopenings.

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