About 130,000 Los Angeles Unified students — about a third of the district’s enrollment — were absent from school for the first few days back from winter vacation, opening another chapter of disruption in the district’s second-largest school system. country.
In addition, teacher and employee absences remained high, so office administrators and substitute teachers had to fill classrooms. All schools remained open for in-person learning this week. At a welcome event at Elysian Heights Elementary Arts Magnet, the incoming superintendent. Alberto Carvalho said the district will continue to let parents know that Los Angeles schools are safe.
“These are safe places because of the protective measures that are in place here,” Carvalho said. “Parents need to understand this, they need to bring the kids to school.”
He said the problems facing LAUSD amid soaring coronavirus rates are also hitting his home school district of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, with disruptive school conditions that are increasing absenteeism rates for students and compress an already tight school labor market.
School board president Kelly Gonez said she understands the fear of many parents who aren’t ready to send their children back to in-person learning due to the high number of coronavirus cases.
“Yes, our positivity rates are higher to start the spring semester, but we’re seeing that trend to be positive,” Gonez said, referring to a downward trend in LA Unified students testing positive this week.
As school campuses reopened on Tuesday, 17% of LAUSD students and 15% of staff tested positive for the coronavirus, says the neighborhood. On Thursday, 15.6% of students tested positive while 13.3% of staff tested positive. The district operates the nation’s most ambitious school-based coronavirus testing program, with more than 500,000 mandatory tests administered weekly to all students and staff.
Carvalho said data trends showing the Omicron surge should ease in the coming weeks will bring more stability to staff and student attendance. He cautioned against moving too quickly to relax safety protocols in schools, saying he was “concerned that as soon as conditions improve a bit, we let our guard down, we go back to where we were”.
“We cannot allow this to happen,” he continued. “What’s at stake is the viability of schools opening.”
Carvalho affirmed his support for the district’s efforts to keep schools open for in-person learning, saying the board “did everything right in terms of protective actions for the benefit of students.”
Carvalho did not say when he would officially take over as superintendent. He said he would move to Los Angeles in early to mid-February to transition from the Florida school district where he led for 13 years as superintendent.