The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education on Aug. 17 supported the launch of a program that will provide regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to school staff, students and their families while distance-learning protocols are in place. Under the plan, research will be conducted to study the impact and effects of reopening schools, and the data will be available to the public.
The testing and contact-tracing program and its corresponding research are a collaboration between LAUSD and scientists from UCLA, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft, testing experts and health care companies Anthem Blue Cross and Health Net. They will be part of a task force co-chaired by LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact-tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Beutner said. “This will provide a public-health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area. This program will also provide significant education benefits for students by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there. We hope this effort also will provide learnings which can benefit other school systems and communities across the nation as we all combat this pandemic.”
LAUSD students began the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 18 with online distance learning. While the decision about the return of students to schools may not be made for a while, the testing and contact tracing program allows a system to be built and tested and also provides a base of knowledge to help prepare for an eventual return to school campuses, Beutner said.
“During these unprecedented times, Los Angeles Unified will continue to put the safety of our students and our employees first,” Board President Richard Vladovic added. “This program will provide the necessary testing for school staff, students and their families to prepare us to return to school safely and with more information. Los Angeles still has an alarming rate of COVID-19 cases, and we are doing everything we can in order to protect all of our Los Angeles Unified family. ”
Board member Nick Melvoin also reiterated the importance of having programs in place to ensure health and safety.
“We know there is no replacement for in-person school, and we’re doing everything we can to get kids back safely,” Melvoin said. “That is not possible without a comprehensive system of testing and contact tracing.”
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