Many LA schools still have some steps to follow before reopening

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County has met the state's threshold for allowing elementary schools to reopen - but don't pack your child's bookbag just yet.

Schools and districts still have some steps to take before they can reopen, if they want to.

The threshold for letting elementary schools reopen is five days of new COVID-19 cases of 25 or fewer per 100,000 people living in the county.

But once reaching that point - which Los Angeles has - the only schools that can start to reopen are those which have already obtained waivers or submitted COVID-19 safety plans in advance.

There are extensive safety requirements that schools must follow as part of those safety plans, including social distancing, masking requirements, sufficient ventilation and testing programs.

County health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said there are 12 school districts that have submitted their COVID-19 safety plans and had them approved, including Los Angeles Unified.

"While we always remain concerned about the potential for outbreaks in schools, the data both nationally and here in L.A. County indicate that schools are not high-risk settings in terms of transmission for COVID-19," Ferrer said.

However LAUSD says it won't be re-opening any time soon. In a statement Monday, Superintendent Austin Beutner said all staff needs to be vaccinated first.

"We know a critical part of re-opening school classrooms will be creating the safest possible school environment. And that includes providing vaccinations to all who work in schools."

The CDC however issued guidelines that say in-person schooling can resume safely with masks and other protocols and that vaccination of teachers is not necessary.

Los Angeles County schools superintendent Debra Duardo issued a statement saying in part "Vaccinating school staff is not a state or local public health requirement. However, prioritizing staff who work on campus with students for the vaccine is critical as our districts work with their labor partners to safely reopen campuses."

In the weekly video statement from United Teachers Los Angeles, the union president said they want everyone vaccinated and will use this in their labor negotiations.

"Embedded in our bargaining framework are the components of a safe return that I listed earlier. One: vaccines for all educators and school staff," said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz.

Ferrer says the county hopes to start opening vaccination centers to school employees as well as first responders and farmworkers by March 1.
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