LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — For the first time in more than a year, dozens of Los Angeles Unified School District campuses reopened their doors to students Tuesday.
The reopening is occurring in phases. Sixty-one elementary schools and 11 education centers opened for in-person learning on Tuesday for kindergartners and first graders.
Grades two and three return on Wednesday and fourth- and fifth-graders on Thursday.
Remaining elementary schools and early education centers will open next week. Middle school and high schools will open their doors the week of April 26.
All returning students will be tested the week prior to coming back, and then on a weekly basis after that. Staff will undergo the same testing procedures.
“We’ve upgraded the air filtration systems so the air in every classroom is filtered to the equivalent of the N95 mask, every day, 24 hours a day,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner told reporters Monday. “We’ve moved desks apart, give people more room so they can stay safely distant, doubled custodial staff, we’re testing everyone students and staff at school weekly for COVID.”
LAUSD said that hand sanitizing stations have also been added and desks are separated six-feet apart.
As of last week, a survey of LAUSD families showed that 49% of elementary school parents want their kids to return to the classroom, with about three-quarters of responses in. Those who don’t participate in the survey will remain solely in online instruction.
At the high school level, only 25% of families who participated in the survey said they’ll return their students to campuses; and 35% of middle school families said they’ll come back to the classroom.
LAUSD’s reopened elementary schools will offer three hours of focused work in literacy, math, science and social studies, as well as recess and lunch, in addition to homework help and enrichment activities such as painting, dance and yoga.
“Once I stepped into my classroom yesterday, I didn’t realize how much I missed it, so it’ll be really nice to go back,” fourth grade teacher Louisa Marasco told CBSLA Sunday.
The Roscoe Elementary School teacher got her first look at the classroom this weekend. With fewer desks and arrows on the floor to direct students movements, Marasco said her classroom definitely looks different. She will also have fewer students.
Out of her normal 25 students, only eight will be returning because some parents around the city are opting to keep their children at home for remote learning.
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond appeared on Face the Nation Sunday morning and defended the fact that California is last in the country when it comes to reopening schools.
“This has been complex and everyone has been trying to find a way to get our schools open,” Thurmond said. “We’re pivoting now and we’re in a place where we’re seeing 9,000 of our 10,000 schools that are either open or have found a way to get open.”
For her part, Marasco is happy with the way that things have been handled.
“I’m glad they waited,” she said. “I think it was important to make sure that they took the…safety precautions.”
The LAUSD also unveiled three vaccination sites at area schools the previous week in hopes of opening 25 such sites aimed at targeting parents and caregivers in underserved communities. However, the sites are also open to anyone within the community.
Starting Tuesday, the city’s vaccination sites will be providing the vaccines to those ages 16 and older. According to Los Angeles County, there will be 323,000 vaccine doses available this week. Nonetheless, with the county supply, city supply and private supply, about 78,000 doses of the vaccine are being administered each day.
“The vast array of providers that are getting the vaccine directly from the federal government or the state. We believe we have really a significant supply,” said Dr. Paul Simon, a Los Angeles County chief science officer.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)