With debate continuing to rage locally and statewide about reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, California health officials Friday released an interactive map that allows Angelenos and others across the state to track the status of campus reopenings.
The Safe Schools Reopening Map provides data on the status of reopening and safety planning for school districts, charter and private schools in Los Angeles and across California. Officials hope it will help communities and school staff evaluate their own reopening plans.
Schools will update their information every two weeks, and the California Department of Public Health will add data on reported outbreaks in each school district and information about whether schools have partnered with the Valencia Branch Lab for COVID-19 testing.
“As COVID-19 conditions continue to improve and vaccinations ramp up throughout the state, this map will provide local communities with accessible, up-to-date information on how districts in their communities and beyond are adapting to the pandemic, including safety planning and implementation,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “This map is one of many resources we have made available that will help school staff and families make informed decisions as we safely reopen our schools.”
The map was created through a partnership between the state, county office of education and the California Collaborative in Education Excellence. It can be accessed at https://bit.ly/3jHh1xz.
Newsom has said he is nearing an agreement with state legislators on his proposed $6.6 billion plan to expediting the reopening of school campuses, with sweeping safety measures, limits on numbers of students in classrooms and provision of protective equipment.
But officials from several of the state’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have balked at the governor’s plan, saying it falls short on funding for urban school districts. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and the United Teachers Los Angeles union have also called for campuses to remain closed until teachers and staff can be vaccinated — a position opposed by Newsom.
At noon, a group of parents from across California will hold a virtual news conference to urge officials not to reopen schools amid what they call “critically high community transmission rates,” as well as virus variants, lack of safety measures and unclear vaccine distribution plans.
On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released what it calls a roadmap of guidelines for the reopening of school campuses. The document urges local health officials to give “high priority to teachers in early phases of vaccine distribution,” but it says vaccines are not required for in-person learning.
“Vaccinating teachers and school staff can be considered one layer of mitigation and protection for staff and students,” according to the CDC document. “Strategies to minimize barriers to accessing vaccination for teachers and other frontline essential workers, such as vaccine clinics at or close to the place of work, are optimal. Access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction.”
Current state guidelines allow the reopening of school campuses for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade when a county’s COVID-19 average rate of new cases drops to 25 per 100,000 residents. Los Angeles County’s rate is currently about 31 new cases per 100,000, but it has been steadily dropping, and it could meet the required threshold as early as next week.
But County Supervisor Kathryn Barger on Friday sent a letter to Newsom calling for the immediate opening of all K-6 classrooms, while also asking that he allow grades 7 through 12 to open, even in counties like Los Angeles that are in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s economic reopening matrix.
“The safety of reopening the classroom has been well-documented worldwide, and our children cannot wait another day to get back to school,” Barger wrote in her letter. “While our youngest children have had the most difficulty accessing online education, the impact has been felt by children of all ages.”