How to Navigate This Back-to-School Season
Hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles-area students started school this week, a massive return to in-person education that was marked by pandemic-driven anxiety, a sense of excitement and early-morning frustration over the failure of the district’s health screening system, which caused long waits to enter campuses.
The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health has enacted strict protocols for reopening schools this year to keep students and faculty safe including mandatory health screenings prior to entering the premises. It is highly recommended that students arrive 30-40 minutes before the first bell to make sure there is enough time for these protocols.
Middle school students seem to be the most adaptable to the situation. “Ultimately, my daughter texted me and said she would wear four masks at school if they asked her to so she can be on campus with her teachers and classmates and friends,” said Jana Fain, whose child attends Franklin Dual Language Middle School in Highland Park. “Her face was brimming with so much joy after school, it broke my heart.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, high school students strike a different tone: one student waiting outside Marshall High in Los Feliz said the lengthy wait had definitely “killed my mood.” He pointed wistfully to the window where his first-period class was taking place. Some highschoolers are opting to stay home instead of dealing with the protocols. And many college students are taking entire semesters or years off because they don’t feel like they are getting the full college experience.
When it comes to safety from COVID-19 in schools, L.A. Unified has emerged as a national leader. It was the first district to institute mandatory, universal testing at its schools under a contract with a vendor that provides results by early the following morning, long enough before school starts to take necessary quarantining or other steps. It was among the first to replace its aging ventilation systems with state-of-the-art air filtration.
Even better, it now is mandating vaccination for its staff, except those with medical or religious reasons for not taking the jab.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published its updated recommendations for K-12 schools. It suggests universal masking in schools, targeted quarantine practices and access to a robust coronavirus testing program. But above all else, the state of California and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health stress vaccination for all eligible individuals and masking in classrooms and school buildings.
Read more about the protocols here: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/docs/protocols/reopening_K12schools.pdf