school waiver program

COVID-19: L.A. County Provides Update on School Waiver Program

Uploaded: , Wednesday, Sep 16, 2020

By Press Release

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Tuesday provided an update on the county’s In-Person Learning Waiver Program, often referred to as the School Waiver Program.

The program aims to allow school districts in L.A. County the opportunity to apply for a waiver that would allow in-classroom instruction for students in grades TK through grade 6.

As some counties across California begin to reopen, many Los Angeles County residents have wondered when they will see the lifting of public health restrictions impacting schools.

L.A. County initially hoped to launch a School Waiver application process in early August. This, however, changed as COVID-19 data in L.A. County changed.

Below you’ll find answers to many of your biggest questions on School Waivers in L.A. County.

Other counties are accepting waivers, why not L.A. County?
To date, COVID-19 has infected over a quarter-million people and tragically taken the lives of 6,200 in L.A. County. L.A. County has the most people and COVID-19 infections in California, so we must take a more measured approach to reopening schools based on our local data.

Why were the requirements for waivers changed?
The School Waiver requirements are set by the State of California. Counties have the option of providing school waivers. There has been little change to the waiver requirements, but LA County decided to take a more cautious and staged approach to reopening, so we can better protect the safety of our students and families.

Why isn’t DPH releasing school district-level data?
School district-level data was a requirement for the State of CA School Waivers. Since LA County is not processing waiver applications currently, the school district level data is not useful at this time. School district data are not helpful for assessing community transmission and may cause greater confusion. DPH will provide this data once school waivers are permitted.

Why is L.A. County currently not offering the waiver?
DPH monitored the COVID-19 community transmission data closely and assessed the risk of reopening. With widespread community transmission, reopening schools is high-risk. The state of California started allowing schools to reopen in small cohorts for students with the greatest need for in-person learning. L.A. County is taking a cautious and staged approach to reopening to keep our students and families safe. We will offer the waiver when it is safe, and schools are better prepared to ensure their students’ and staff’s safety.

This will reduce the chances of future school disruptions caused by identified cases and outbreaks should they occur by limiting these occurrences and better preparation with effective protocols and procedures in place should confirmed cases and outbreaks occur at schools.

Are all schools closed?
L.A. County reopened schools for small groups of students most in need of in-person learning for special education and specialized services. You can see the schools that reopened on the Public Health website: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/TK-12SpecializedServicesFormSubmissions.htm. Schools also continue to provide instructional services for online learning, nutrition services, and other supportive services for students and their families.

When will schools reopen for in-person learning?
DPH is currently taking a staged approach to reopening schools for small groups of students most in need of in-person learning for special education and specialized services. DPH will monitor the schools and assess the safety of open schools, which will take 6-8 weeks. DPH will examine the data and assess whether expanded reopenings are safe.

Why is DPH (or Dr. Ferrer) politicizing the reopenings?
Dr. Ferrer’s comment on the timing of school waivers is based on the time required to implement the current reopening and assess the safety of schools. We will be working closely with schools, providing services and supports to high need students over the next 6-8 weeks to implement and assess safety directives and strategies for ensuring infection control and distancing. This information will be used to inform the timing of future activities at schools and the broad implementation of school waivers. We will release school district-level data at that time.

Our school is small and in a community with low rates of COVID-19. Why can’t we reopen?
With widespread community transmission in L.A. County, reopening schools is risky. There is currently a substantial spread of COVID-19 in most L.A. County communities and COVID-19 does not stop at city limits. Schools are a part of the broader community. Students, teachers, and staff can become infected with COVID-19 in the community and spread the virus to others while at school, who will then bring it home to their families.

What can I do about my child who is suffering from mental and emotional strain from not being in school?
Schools can reopen for children most in need of in-person learning for special education and specialized services. Schools are permitted to bring a small cohort of students onto their campus for in-person instruction. Schools can assess which students are in the greatest need for this type of instruction. Please check with your school about the services that they’re providing. In addition, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) supports the wellbeing of every member of our communities. The COVID-19 information home provides mental health resources for LA County residents. LACDMH’s 24/7 Help Line at 800-854-7771 is available to provide mental health support, resources and referrals.

Why are schools allowed to reopen as “camps”?
Schools are not allowed to reopen as camps. However, the State of California allows Day Camps to be open as an essential form of childcare. Daycare and Day Camps are permitted to operate on school campuses if they are licensed and following DPH COVID-19 Safety Protocols. Day Camps that are operating as schools is a violation of the education code and should be referred to the local education authority. Day camps and daycares are required to be licensed by the California Department of Social Services or must obtain a waiver.

The COVID-19 case rates are improving. Why can’t we reopen immediately?
While the case rates are dropping, rushed reopenings have proven harmful resulting in an increase of COVID-19 infections. L.A. County is taking a more measured approach to reopening schools based on our local data to reduce the risk to students, teachers, and their families.

Right now, DPH has reopened schools for a small number of high-need students to return to school for specialized supports and services. This allows students with the greatest need to return to campus and for Public Health experts to assess preparedness and safety of L.A. County schools reopening.

DPH is closely monitoring COVID-19 data including COVID-19 infections, outbreaks, contact investigation findings, and school safety protocols. This allows us to reopen when it is safe and to develop additional infection control measures for schools.

For more on L.A. County’s Road to Recovery, or things you can do to protect yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Department of Public Health online.

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