Los Angeles County to Allow Waivers to Begin Reopening Elementary Schools


Los Angeles County to Allow Waivers to Begin Reopening Elementary Schools

Oct 1, 2020

Elementary school students in Los Angeles County may be one small step closer to returning to classrooms. But whether they do will depend on whether their schools decide to apply for—and are granted—a waiver to a state rule that requires schools in areas with high COVID-19 infection rates to operate remotely. (Schools in Los Angeles County can already open at 10 percent capacity to serve students in specialized groups, such as English language learners or special education students.)

Citing equity concerns, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to allow public and private elementary schools in the county to apply to reopen school buildings for students in transitional kindergarten through second grade. Under the board’s decision, 30 schools would be permitted to open each week, with priority given to those serving high rates of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

To date, approximately five in every six waiver recipients in the state is a private school. Under the terms of waivers, schools wishing to re-open must comply with safety precautions, and must demonstrate buy-in from all stakeholders in the school community. Private schools and affluent districts are typically better positioned to meet these requirements.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the country, is staying mum about whether it will apply for a waiver. According to the district, more than 80 percent of its students live at or below the poverty line. Researchers have found that access to remote learning is inequitable, particularly for Black and Latino students in the district. While acknowledging these problems, the teachers’ union oppose the application for a waiver, citing safety and health concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for low-income communities and for people of color.

In staying fully remote—for now—LAUSD mirrors 35 percent of districts that we have been tracking in our EdSurge/Social Context Labs database of 375 districts. Meanwhile, 150 districts—or 40 percent—offer in-person instruction, and 34 percent offer hybrid instruction. Typically, districts offering hybrid or in-person instruction also offer a fully remote option.

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