LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The incoming superintendent of the Los Angeles
Unified School District is warning that COVID-19 will continue presenting
challenges for the district and students for the foreseeable future, and the nation’s second-largest school district will have to nimbly adapt to rapidly
changing conditions.

“I’m one who believes in science, and we recognize that probably COVID-19 is here to stay,” Alberto Carvalho said Friday during a visit to Elysian Heights Elementary Arts Magnet School.

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Alberto Carvalho, the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, holds a news conference at Elysian Heights Elementary School. Jan. 14, 2021. (CBSLA)

Carvalho is not scheduled to take over as superintendent until March, but made the visit Friday to get a firsthand look at how the district is managing during the first week of instruction amid a countywide surge in COVID-19 infections.

LAUSD officials mandated COVID testing for all students and staff before they were permitted to return to campuses this week. According to figures released by the district Thursday, 13.3% of district employees tested positive for the virus ahead of the start of classes, and 15.6% of students.

District officials have touted that the overall rates are lower than the county at large, where the current positivity rate is about 20%.

But the positive tests are having an impact on student attendance.

During the first few days of classes, preliminary attendance figures show a
roughly 33.2% absentee rate among students, according to the district.

The virus has also led to some staffing issues, most notably among bus drivers.

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According to the district, 361 bus routes this week had to be covered by supervisors, trainers and other drivers.

About 2,000 teaching slots were covered by certified substitutes, according to the district.

Carvalho said he supports the measures implemented by the district thus far to cope with the pandemic, but acknowledges there is more work to be done to ensure students don’t fall farther behind.

“We recognize that students were already in a fragile condition — academically speaking, socially and emotionally speaking, socio-economically speaking, in terms of linguistic proficiency, students with disabilities have
lost a lot of ground,” he said.

Carvalho said the district will have to be “nimble” in responding to the ever-changing conditions presented by the pandemic.

But overall, Carvalho said he enjoyed his first formal visit to a district campus, even though he hasn’t officially begun his new job.

“I am so happy that on the very first day I was able to connect with
students, who are the reason I’m here,” he said.

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Carvalho has been the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public
Schools since 2008.