LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to give public school districts and private schools the ability to apply for waivers which would allow them to reopen campuses to students and resume in-person instruction.
Now, 30 schools per week can apply for a waiver for on-campus instruction for TK through second grade. Schools in low-income communities will receive priority.
The state created a waiver system months ago allowing schools in areas with low virus activity to seek permission to offer in-person instruction on some restricted level. But L.A. County opted not to accept such requests.
These waiver applications will go to L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
“I’m very pleased that the board decided to authorize the waiver process,” said Tom Konjoyan, the head of Village Christian School in Sun Valley.
The K-12 private school serves about 950 students. Konjoyan is part of a coalition of private and faith-based school leaders that wrote a letter to the board on Monday, asking for a pathway to reopening.
“We felt like we needed to organize to make sure the supervisors and the Department of Health knew that there are a lot of different schools in L.A. County, and private schools in general want to reopen [and] are ready to reopen,” he said. “We’ve prepared to reopen.”
Konjoyan said that Village Christian has spent over $100,000 installing new health and safety measures such as sanitation stations, acrylic dividers in classrooms, outdoor tent classrooms, and more.
“We’ve been surveying our parents all summer all fall and the vast majority of them in our case wants to be back on campus,” he said.
Chris Del Rey is one of those parents. He has a sophomore and a senior that have gone to Village Christian their entire educational career.
“It’s hard, it’s hard for them,” Del Rey said. “Sure, I have concerns about COVID, and we take the virus very serious, but my gosh, what Village Christian has done to make absolutely sure the kids are safe and there is no transference of the virus is unbelievable.”
On Monday, L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner acknowledged that while the challenges posed to students by virtual learning were significant, LAUSD schools were still not close to reopening campuses, and noted that LAUSD would not resume in-person instruction until Nov. 1 at the very earliest.
“Schools cannot open until the overall level of the virus is much lower,” Beutner said. “We’re dependent upon state and local health authorities to put in place and maintain the appropriate guidelines to manage this.”
The issue could become heightened if L.A. County is moved up on the state’s four-tiered coronavirus recovery roadmap. Currently, L.A. County is in the highest-risk category, purple. There was the possibility that it would be moved up to red as early as Tuesday. However, the state updates the chart every Tuesday, and the latest update continued to show L.A. County in the purple tier.
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. As of Tuesday, L.A. County was recording 7.3 new cases per 100,000 and had a positivity rate of 2.3%.
In nearby Orange County, which moved from purple to red earlier this month, all school districts were given permission to reopen campuses last week.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)