LAUSD's new superintendent tells parents: 'Schools are the safest place in our community'

ELYSIAN HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Unified School District's new superintendent was on hand Friday to welcome students at Elysian Heights Elementary Arts Magnet school.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told parents the safest place for their children to learn is on campus.

"I'm one who believes in science, and we recognize that probably COVID-19 is here to stay,'' Carvalho said.

Carvalho is not scheduled to take over as superintendent until March, but made the visit Friday to get a firsthand look at how the district is managing during the first week of instruction amid a countywide surge in COVID-19 infections.

LAUSD officials mandated COVID testing for all students and staff before they were permitted to return to campuses this week. According to figures released by the district Thursday, 13.3% of district employees tested positive for the virus ahead of the start of classes, and 15.6% of students.

District officials have touted that the overall rates are lower than the county at large, where the current positivity rate is about 20%.

But the positive tests are having an impact on student attendance. During the first few days of classes, preliminary attendance figures show a roughly 33.2% absentee rate -- representing about 130,000 students, according to the district.

The virus has also led to some staffing issues, most notably among bus drivers. According to the district, 361 bus routes this week had to be covered by supervisors, trainers and other drivers.

About 2,000 teaching slots were covered by certified substitutes, according to the district.

Carvalho said he supports the measures implemented by the district thus far to cope with the pandemic, but acknowledges there is more work to be done to ensure students don't fall farther behind.

"We recognize that students were already in a fragile condition -- academically speaking, socially and emotionally speaking, socio-economically speaking, in terms of linguistic proficiency, students with disabilities have lost a lot of ground,'' he said.

Carvalho said the district will have to be "nimble'' in responding to the ever-changing conditions presented by the pandemic.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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