Los Angeles Unified School District said Thursday it is requiring all students and faculty to be tested for COVID-19 – regardless of their vaccination status – before returning to in-person learning for the new school year.
“As part of our efforts to maintain the safest possible environment for students and employees, we are closely monitoring evolving health conditions and adapting our response in preparation for our full return to in-person learning on August 16,” Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said in an email.
The policy change comes amid rising COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County and beyond, with the surge largely blamed on a highly infectious Delta variant of the virus. Although health officials have insisted that current vaccines provide strong protection against COVID and the Delta variant, they do not completely prevent vaccinated people from becoming infected. They do largely prevent vaccinated people from becoming severely ill or dying.
Reilly added that “this is per the most recent guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Baseline testing begins on Monday, August 2.”
In her message, Reilly said the district is “closely monitoring evolving health conditions and adapting our response in preparation for our full return to in-person learning on August 16.”
“Los Angeles Unified continues to collaborate with our health partners at the county and state levels, as well as our panel of medical experts and university partners and we, review updates to county, state, and federal guidance daily,” she wrote.
The new requirements marked a shift in LAUSD’s previous policy to require testing only for those who are unvaccinated. It comes as the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is sweeping much of the nation, accounting for more than 80% of infections. The surge has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to recommend people who are fully vaccinated should resume wearing masks indoors if they live in areas where the virus is surging.
Parents who do not wish to send their children to campus must opt-out of in-person learning by Friday. However, the district’s remote learning plan will be slightly different this year.
Remote classes may not be taught by teachers from their current campus. Instead, students will be part of an independent study program. Additionally, students who choose online classes may not be able to participate in extracurricular activities.
Switching between online and in-person instruction won’t be easy LAUSD is asking students to commit to a full semester.