Pencils down. Heads up.
Summertime is over, and what could be a roller-coaster ride for students and staff in Los Angeles County has commenced. Already, just two days prior to school starting in Beverly Hills, new government requirements related to COVID-19 are en route.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 11 announced that the state will require all school staff to get vaccinations or take weekly tests. Beverly Hills Unified School District Superintendent Michael Bregy said the district is eager to review the state’s plan.
“Until then, we are having positive discussions with our labor partners to ensure we achieve our common goal to keep our schools open with the least amount of disruption to the continuity of in-person instruction in the safest way possible,” he said. “The best way to do this is by making modifications with the information we have available at that time. With the current precarious state of COVID-19, adjustments will need to be made that are appropriate to the scale and nature of the event. We are optimistic to have a fresh start to the school year after a much-needed summer break.”
Even before Newsom’s announcement, many questions loomed, prompting the district to revise and re-release “Ready Together,” its plan to safely reopen schools using Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines.
“There is one certainty about the impact of COVID-19 on education, we must be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice,” Bregy said. “We have an incredibly resilient community at BHUSD, and although the future is unknown, we will continue to provide a robust instructional program for all students. We are confident that the insight we gained last year will guide our decisions moving forward.”
Among the unknowns is whether students will spend their school year entirely in the classroom. If home learning is mandated at some point, the district is ready, Bregy said.
“In the event we are forced by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to physically shut down, our board of education has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure and technology to support our ability to be agile and transition quickly,” he added. “Our dedicated teachers did a phenomenal job building this teaching model last year and, although we hope for the best, we are planning for all foreseeable scenarios.”
He said the district’s priorities for 2021-22 are the same as they were pre-pandemic – health and safety, educational rigor and consistency, childcare and social and emotional wellbeing.
“We have learned valuable lessons with the understanding that we do not control the conditions that come up in our lives, but we do determine the experience,” Bregy added. “I am confident our BHUSD staff will do everything we can to ensure that we are delivering the highest instructional and social and emotional experiences for our youngest learners to our high school students. We are grateful to the wider community for their ongoing support of BHUSD.”
Currently, the health department is not requiring vaccinations for students in Los Angeles County; however, the Los Angeles Unified School District is requiring vaccinations for students or weekly, negative COVID-19 tests. Beverly Hills will require that staff members, students and visitors wear masks while indoors regardless of vaccination status; however, masks will be optional outdoors.
The district will take students’ and visitors’ temperatures upon entry to district facilities. Staff members can take their temperatures using district-provided thermometers before coming to school.
Employees, volunteers, visitors and contractors will be required to complete a health screening daily at bhusd.org/healthscreening.
Students who are in “close contact” – within six feet for more than 15 minutes – with someone who has COVID-19 will be required to quarantine, unless they are asymptomatic and vaccinated or if they are asymptomatic and have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days. In those cases, the health department recommends a test, but it is not required.
Other students who are exposed must quarantine for 10 days from the date of the exposure. If these students can produce a negative test by the fifth day, they can return two days later.
If students have traveled outside of the state since Aug. 3, they will be required to get a COVID-19 test prior to school beginning. If students travel outside the state 10 days before Aug. 13, Sept. 9 and Nov. 29 and are not fully vaccinated, they will need to take a district test as well. The health department has issued a travel advisory, but it is only a recommendation, district officials said.
According to the district, students will eat outside as much as possible, with elementary school students eating with their classroom groups. Increased physical distance is recommended by the health department. Physical education classes will be held outdoors as much as possible as well.
Additionally, water fountains will be operational, and teachers will have seating plans to “identify students who may be impacted” by exposure and begin contract tracing, district officials said. Sporting events and performances will be held, with masks required indoors. Full school days will be held, with the exception of students in Independent Study.
Custodians will use a hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant and have access to personal protective equipment. They have also been trained in blood borne pathogen prevention, according to the district.
Frequently, students and staff members will have an opportunity to wash their hands. Younger children will have more frequent mandatory breaks for handwashing. Hand sanitizer will not be openly available in classrooms with children under age 9.
Students and staff who are symptomatic can get a daily COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test between 3 and 4 p.m. throughout the week. They are held at various locations: the district office (Mondays), Horace Mann Elementary School (Tuesdays), Hawthorne Elementary School (Wednesdays), Beverly Vista Middle School (Thursdays) and Beverly Hills High School (Fridays). All results are reported to the health department.
All infections and exposures involving Beverly Hills students should be directed to the district’s health department liaison, Phil Wenker, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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