By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Some Pacific Palisades parents are pushing for the return of in-person instruction after Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced a decline in COVID-19 case rates that meets state requirements for students in grades TK through sixth grade to return to campus.
According to data shared by Public Health on Tuesday, the county’s adjusted case rate is 12.3 cases per 100,000 people, with a seven-day average daily positivity rate of 5.1%. The decline in infection rates means elementary schools in the county are eligible to reopen in compliance with state and county directives, according to Public Health.
“As difficult as the decision was to close school classrooms, reopening is even harder,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said during his regular Monday broadcast on February 22. “We have to balance the learning needs of students, the support we provide to working families, and the responsibility to protect the health and safety of all in the school community. We cannot and will not compromise on health and safety.”
But local families are urging schools to reopen as quickly as possible. To heighten the message, families protested distance learning by participating in a statewide “Zoom blackout” on Monday, February 22.
“Participating in this blackout for me was parents taking a stand and saying this is simply not OK,” Jackie Hughes, a Palisadian parent of a first-grade child, explained. “We need to be heard. There are children struggling to learn and lacking engagement when on-screen. These kids need in-person instruction to succeed and parents in LA County that don’t have a means for private school are simply left with no options.”
Hughes added neighboring school districts have resumed in-person classes: “Yet LAUSD has not. Why?”
“We are not anti-teachers,” Hughes said. “We are pro-school. We simply want what has already been made available to millions of children elsewhere, available to our children.”
Concurrently, LAUSD families participated in an in-person component of the protest outside of the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard on Monday at 9 a.m. Attendees were encouraged to wear black and masks, as well as bring signs.
Although grades seven through 12 will not be permitted on-campus until the county’s case rate falls below seven cases per 100,000 people, upper grade level parents share the same discontent.
Lisa Manheim has a child at Palisades Charter High School and questioned why students have not been able to return for outdoor sports, even after the state health agency has allowed them to with conditions.
“What I really want is for the district to do what has been approved … which is to allow sports conditioning, purple tier sports to happen and high-needs students to return,” Manheim said. “We’ve got other high schools in our area … going back for social reasons, going back for sports and our kids are not. It’s super frustrating.”
LAUSD District 4 Representative Nick Melvoin said kids shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
“I have been pushing for LAUSD to resume in-person services and childcare programs, and I’m glad that those will be resuming in the coming week or two,” he said in an email to the Post. “As we push for an agreement with our teacher’s union, the superintendent has set a goal of reopening elementary schools by early April. I wish it were sooner but am hopeful parents will have the option to choose in-person schooling by then.”
Beutner mentioned a reopening date “no later than April 9” for all preschools and elementary schools in the district—with timely and sufficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for school staff being critical.
“Experts tell us the combination of more people being vaccinated, the immunity provided to those who have been exposed to the virus over the past many months and continued safe health practices should lead to continued declines,” he said. “We stand ready to work with state and local health authorities … we need to act now.”
Teachers, day care workers and other school employees will be eligible to receive vaccines starting March 1. Governor Gavin Newsom shared plans to begin setting aside 10% of doses the state receives each week for people in this group.
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