By Natalie Luna
The County Board of Supervisors made the decision last week to allow some schools to reopen in order to help low-income families.
A limited number of elementary schools can apply for waivers to open schools. These waivers have been offered in order to help younger students who have difficulties adapting to the online school system, as well as low-income families struggling with child care.
County officials like LA County Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer have the main goal of opening the school districts safely, however, which is why they are only offering waivers and not opening all schools. Schools have to be able to follow social distancing and cleaning guidelines to be able to open.
“One of the challenges we have with directives that seemingly change – this week’s different than last week which is different than the week before; we need a firm foundation. The firm foundation for us will be science, it’ll be what’s safe and appropriate for the school community,” Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Austin Beutner said in an interview with ABC.
Parents, teachers, children and young adults starting their college careers are each juggling the risk to their health, livelihood, personal growth and professional development. There are 700,000 students and 75,000 staff in LAUSD schools.
Several months ago, officials had originally planned for students and educators to return in the fall, but Governor Gavin Newson postponed that reopening in July due to the concerns for children and educators. There is still no clear date for when schools will reopen.
One of the reasons the waivers to reopen exist for elementary schools and not middle or high schools are that teenagers are more at risk for contracting the virus versus younger children. Another is the size difference of the schools. Older students in middle and high school move between different classrooms during the day, which would make social distancing more challenging.
In other countries that have been able to reopen their schools, they have implemented handwashing stations, cleaning protocols for classrooms serving different student groups, requiring masks for students in third grade and above, and requiring social distancing inside and outside classrooms. This is challenging in schools with 4000 and more students.
“It will be challenging given that the natural desire of children and teenagers is to interact with one another, teasing, flirting, and pushing boundaries Though young people have a strong sense of right and wrong and are motivated to help others, which could inspire them to embrace rules that keep their friends and teachers healthy,” Dr. Ronald E. Dhal, an expert on adolescent health and development at the University of California, Berkeley, said to the Baltimore Sun.