LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Students with extra needs in Los Angeles County will be allowed back on school campuses later this month after health officials revised their public health order Monday.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health announced that beginning on Monday, Sept. 14, K-12 schools can welcome back students studying English as a second language and those “needing assessments or specialized in-school services.”
“As long as the school is fully able to implement the health officer’s reopening protocol, this will get children who are in the most need of in person learning back into the classrooms,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said Wednesday.
The students will only be allowed on campus in small groups.
“So many students can’t simply access the support and instruction they need via distance learning even with everybody’s best efforts,” Lisa Mosko, director of special education advocacy with the group Speak UP, told CBSLA Wednesday.
Moskow, who also serves on the Los Angeles Unified School District Community Advisory Committee, said a survey by Speak UP found 50 percent of parents with special needs children were not getting critical services.
“For example, speech therapists were sending worksheets via email to parents instead of doing speech therapy via Zoom,” Mosko added.
Parents have echoed similar concerns, while understanding the limitations of shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus.
Carla Suarez Capdet said three years of progress with her kindergarten son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, appears to have been undone in a matter of weeks due to the absence of typical therapy and lessons.
Capdet is glad the district can now give specialized care to students.
“Special needs kids, the virtual learning is just so challenging,” Capdet said. “So much of the work that the specialists do is hands-on, in-person, face-to-face connection. It’s so critical for them.”
The county also announced Wednesday that it will not be providing waivers to certain K-6 schools looking to reopen for in-person instruction.
In Orange County, which has significantly fewer coronavirus cases than L.A., dozens of K-6 schools have already received such waivers, allowing them to reopen campuses. On Monday, the O.C. Health Care Agency reported that, based on its progress combating the coronavirus, it could receive permission from the state to reopen all K-12 schools by Sept. 22.
California’s new four-tiered coronavirus assessment system, unveiled Aug. 28, determines the process by which each county can reopen businesses and schools.
The color-coded system ranges from yellow (minimal), orange (moderate), red (substantial) and purple (widespread).
All of Southern California was placed under the purple designation except for San Diego, which was assigned red.
Los Angeles County isn’t slated to be downgraded from purple to red any time soon. To be downgraded from the purple tier, a county must have less than 7 new daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 population, and have a positivity rate of less than 8%. It must maintain those levels for 14 straight days.
Currently, L.A. County has 13.1 cases per 100,000, nearly double the threshold, and a positivity rate of 5%.
Meanwhile, a childcare and educational support program is underway at 50 L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks facilities.
The alternative learning centers are open for elementary and middle school students Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. They provide students with supervised learning spaces, free internet, breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. For more information, click here.