Superintendent says LAUSD schools reopening with strong COVID-19 safety protocols

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- This week's Eyewitness Newsmakers included a tour of Westminster Avenue Elementary in Venice, where Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner showed the COVID-19 protocols in place for students when they return to school starting next week.

The plan begins with elementary grades, then middle and high schools starting to reopen the week after.

The current schools survey has about half of elementary parents willing to send their children back now; fewer among the upper grade parents.

On the school tour, Beutner demonstrated the pre-screening and daily temperature scan, social distancing in class and halls, room cleaning and treatments, and plans for lunch and play.

Starting Monday LAUSD will offer COVID-19 vaccines to families of students in the district.

Vaccination sites at Washington Prep High School in South L.A. and Lincoln High School in East L.A. will be the first to open.

Beutner says this is an important response to parents who are hesitant to send their children back to class. He said the district's families are more impacted by COVID. They have "High death rates (that) are five to 10 times other communities, and unfortunately low vaccination rates in the communities we serve. "

Beutner said, "The path to have all students back in schools is to make sure their families are vaccinated. We want to be part of that effort. Schools are community-based, they're a trusted partner, and you'll see us do more and more of this in weeks and months to come."

The LAUSD superintendent responded to a lawsuit from an advocacy group called the Freedom Foundation and he's not completely disagreeing. The group is suing the teachers' union, United Teachers Los Angeles, and the district, saying that schools should not have remained closed.

"We've said all along, the best learning for most students happens in a school classroom," Beutner said.

"Consistent with state law, consistent with health authority guidelines, we've not been able to open schools until very recently. And in about a week's time, our schools will begin to open. We've taken extraordinary steps to make them safe. But we've also been very clear, it's going to take a Marshall Plan-like effort to help students recover and move forward."

Beutner said LAUSD closed schools back in March 2020, before there was any COVID in schools. Then the state put a series of COVID standards in place, which the Los Angeles area did not meet until just a few weeks ago. He said COVID levels are coming down and more people are being vaccinated, adding "We know how to reopen schools safely and that's what we're doing."

Beutner said LAUSD is planning a nearly $2-billion Marshall Plan to made up academic loss, including COVID safety, expanded summer programs, additional math and English teachers, smaller class sizes and more support for students with learning disabilities.
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