Most schools throughout Southern California have been closed for nearly a year now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of them are finally beginning to reopen as the region's new daily case counts and hospitalizations decline enough to meet state thresholds for reopening schools.
Last week, 9-year-old Clara's mother and father asked her to sit down for a surprise.
The fourth grader sat and read the signs her mother held up one-by-one, reminding her she's been out of school for 358 days after in-person classes were canceled on March 13, 2020.
Her mom, Tarine, holds up the final sign: "You are going back to school."
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Clara immediately bursts into tears and embraces her mother, saying "Really? I haven't gone to school in such a long time."
The emotional moment seems to reflect the emotional stress and anxiety many children as well as their families have experienced over the past year as they have struggled with remote learning and not being able to see their friends for so long.
The reopening of schools in the state varies by county and district.
In Los Angeles County, elementary schools are allowed to begin reopening if they have approved safety plans in place, but some are choosing to wait. Los Angeles Unified administrators and the teachers union want all teachers and staff to be vaccinated before schools reopen for in-person classes.
Teachers and school staff will be eligible for vaccination in Los Angeles County starting next week, but whether they can actually get appointments will depend on availability of vaccine supply.
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