When Los Angeles Unified students return to campuses a month from now, staff and students, with some exceptions, will be expected to wear a mask indoors, as they did when schools reopened in the spring.
But those who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to undergo regular COVID-19 testing, a major departure from district protocols in the spring when all staff and students on campus were to be tested weekly.
And student athletes will be back to their regular sports schedules this fall.
Those were some of the highlights that district staff reported to the Board of Education last week, outlining what the new school year — which starts Aug. 16 — will look like.
There are still details to be worked out, but here’s a rundown of what we know so far.
Will students receive a full day of instruction?
Elementary and secondary students on campuses will receive a full day of in-person instruction, five days a week.
The biggest change for secondary students will be their ability to travel from one classroom to another and see their teachers in person.
Last semester, middle and high schoolers who returned to campus continued to learn online while seated in a classroom and remained in the same room all day to limit movement on campus in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Many students found the “Zoom from a room” scenario unappealing and opted to remain in distance learning instead.
The district will also continue to provide Beyond the Bell afterschool programs where students can receive academic help or participate in enrichment and recreational activities. The programs will run through 6 p.m. so that students with working parents can have a supervised place to go after school.
Will masks be required?
The state is requiring students and staff — with limited exceptions — to wear a mask while inside a school building. LAUSD is taking it a step further and requiring masks outdoors as well, except while eating. Students who forget or don’t have a mask will be provided one by the school.
Even before the state issued its latest guidance, the district and teachers union had negotiated an agreement requiring all students, staff and visitors to mask up on campus. Accommodations may be made for students with disabilities who are on an individualized education or Section 504 plan and for whom wearing a mask is difficult.
In such cases, parents may request accommodations that could include outdoor mask breaks, replacing the face mask with a face shield featuring a drape at the bottom or other options, David Baca, the district’s chief of schools, said during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Either the district or United Teachers Los Angeles may request to renegotiate the masking rules after Sept. 1, according to the terms of their agreement.
“I do hope that … we will think about opportunities, particularly outside maybe for vaccinated students, where students and faculty would be able to operate without masks,” school board Vice President Nick Melvoin said during the board meeting. “I think it makes sense indoors. I think it makes sense for unvaccinated students. But given that the county public health guidelines don’t require masks outdoors, as we’re thinking not just about eating, but playgrounds or passing periods, I hope we can revisit that.”
What other safety measures will be in place?
The district will continue to test students and staff on campuses for the coronavirus at least once every two weeks if they’re not vaccinated.
Unvaccinated students will also need to get a baseline COVID-19 test done before school begins. The district’s testing sites will be open Aug. 2-13 for students to be tested, according to district staff.
Everyone coming onto campus must go through a health screening, which can be done using the district’s Daily Pass.
LAUSD will also continue to use MERV 13 air filters that are considered as effective as N95 masks to improve classroom air quality and has hired additional custodial workers to help clean and disinfect facilities.
In terms of physical distancing, the district shall follow the latest county guidelines, according to its agreement with UTLA.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that if a minimum of 3 feet of physical distancing in the classroom isn’t possible, schools should employ a layered system of protections, such as masking, daily health checks, upgraded air filtration systems, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations — all of which the district is providing or adhering to, Baca said.
The state has also indicated that in-person instruction can take place safely without minimum distancing requirements when other mitigation measures are in play.
Baca said Tuesday, ahead of a planned meeting between the district and county officials, that early indications suggested LAUSD will be able to align with county rules.
“We feel confident that with all the strategies we have in place, we will be well set up to follow the latest guidance on physical distancing,” he said.
What about additional supports and recess?
School busing will be provided to qualifying students, and all students will be able to receive free lunches from their school.
The district will also provide additional reading and math teachers as well as additional one-on-one tutoring and small group instruction to help students catch up after more than a year of distance learning for most. Schools will also have increased mental health and wellness services for students.
As for recess, it’s unclear how often elementary students will be able to use the play structures.
In the spring, some parents reported that, due to classrooms having to take turns using the play structures and the district’s protocol of disinfecting the equipment in between cohorts, their children were only allowed to play on the structures once or twice — and only for several minutes each time — in the several weeks after campuses reopened.
This week, district staff told the board that playgrounds would be open, though they did not say explicitly that students would have access to them as frequently as they did before the pandemic.
“We get to play on the playground like we were finally able to do in spring,” Baca said.
Is online schooling an option?
Students who wish to remain in distance learning can enroll in the district’s City of Angels independent study program. Elementary students will receive three hours of live daily online instruction, while middle and high school students will log on for three 70-minute class periods per day, with at least 40 minutes of live student-teacher interaction per period. Students will work independently the rest of the school day.
Students may be assigned to teachers other than ones at their regular school.
Additionally, magnet and dual-language immersion programs likely won’t be available through the independent study program. Students who have already been accepted into these programs or an affiliated charter school, but who choose online learning this fall will have their spots at their normal schools held for them until they return.
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Parents should let the district know by July 30 if they plan to enroll their child for on-campus learning or in the independent study program. They can register for the independent study program through the district’s Parent Portal, by visiting www.cityofangelsschool.org or by calling 323-415-8350.
Families may be able to switch between in-person and online learning after school starts, though the district is encouraging parents to stick with one option for the entire semester to minimize disruption to their child’s learning.
Where can I get more information?
The district has answers to frequently asked questions at https://achieve.lausd.net/return-faqs.
It’s also published a Family Guide, which is being mailed out to LAUSD families.
A series of town hall meetings have also been scheduled throughout the district for families to receive information.