Some LA County Catholic schools prepare for return to the classroom

EAGLE ROCK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- On Thursday, St. Dominic Catholic School celebrated 100 days of school, albeit virtually.

Since the start of the school year administrators have been preparing for the day when students would be able to return to campus.

"If you see the layout of the campus we have already started separating our entrances to make sure we are socially distancing our students," said Principal Tiffany Sawyer.

Sawyer took over principal duties at the school in July and has yet to meet many of the students, but her days have been filled with planning and preparing the school for in-person learning. Each classroom has received a COVID-19 makeover, from spaced-out desks to plexiglass dividers.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said if cases of COVID-19 continued to decline, the county would be able to reopen elementary schools for limited in-person instruction in two to three weeks. It's news that many parents are hailing as the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

"Knowing that it's kind of coming to an end it does give us a bit of hope that things are going to change soon," said St. Dominic parent Cinthya Leiva.

Still Leiva, who has been homeschooling her children since last March, is hesitant to return to in-person learning until cases of COVID-19 decline more and the vaccine is more widely available.

"I would be more comfortable keeping them at distance learning, as hard as that may be, just for a little longer," she said.

Other Catholic schools have returned to campus. St. Joseph Catholic School's kindergarten through 2nd grade went back to class after applying for a waiver, but after winter break students went back to virtual learning as cases of the virus skyrocketed.

"Commencing in-person instruction starts next week in those schools that had opened before and those had not been able to open because of the state guidance now have to wait," said Superintendent Paul Escala with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

In order for elementary age students to return to schools, LA County needs to have an average new daily case rate of 25 per 100,000 residents which meets the state's guideline. Until then St. Dominic will have to wait until LA County schools get permission to reopen or waivers are once again granted.

"Regardless of where kids go to school, my message to policymakers is do not discriminate against families and educators who want to return safely to in-person instruction for the sake of another system that may not," said Escala.
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