LA County schools hoping to resume in-person learning have a new set of criteria to achieve, according to a new statewide metric for reopening announced by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday, Aug. 28.
Newsom released a new, four-tiered, color-coded state reopening plan last Friday, revising the state’s previous reopening schedule that was put in place near the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020. Under the new rules, Los Angeles County falls into purple tier 1, which indicates transmission of the virus is still widespread with at least seven new cases per 100,000 people per day.
The other tiers are red tier two, orange tier three and yellow tier four, with each tier indicating a slower rate of transmission.
Schools in Los Angeles County may only reopen in person if the count transitions to the red tier, which means only four to seven new cases per 100,000 people per day, and stays in that tier for two weeks, or if they apply for and are granted a waiver to reopen in-person. Two private schools in nearby Ventura County have already been approved to reopen in person this fall though the county remains in the purple tier.
Los Angeles County has not opened its waiver application yet, but Our Lady of Malibu administrators plan to apply for a waiver as soon as it does, according to Principal Michael Smith.
Until then, OLM will still start on Sept. 8 as originally planned, but all students will be working from home on project-based, independent study-type work, according to Dr. Larkin Cumberland, a parent and member of OLM’s school board.
Then, on Sept. 14, OLM plans to launch a TK-sixth grade camp/daycare where parents may drop off their students. Education will still be delivered remotely, but OLM is working to organize aides and assistants to supervise and guide the children while they all learn together in the classroom, even though their teachers won’t be there. According to Cumberland, the camp will offer all the kids’ core classes, and even subjects such as music, art, foreign language and physical education. Smith said OLM is in the process of setting that option up now. Smith hoped that OLM would only be running the camp for around two weeks; after that, he hoped to bring everyone back to school in-person, state laws permitting.
OLM is also currently updating a few fire alarms; after that, the school can apply for a preschool license, Smith said. A preschool license covers children aged two to six, so if OLM got one, it could technically “blend” its kindergarten class into its preschool program for the time being, which would allow the kindergarteners to return in person with teachers.
Seventh and eighth graders will still remain home until the county transitions to and stays in the red tier for two weeks. According to Cumberland, even a waiver wouldn’t allow those two grades to come back because the waivers only apply to TK-sixth grade.
On Tuesday, Sept. 1, the State of California released a color-coded spreadsheet with COVID-19 data from each of California’s 58 counties, indicating Los Angeles was placed in purple tier one for its case rate, though its testing positivity rate of just 5.0 placed it in red tier two using that metric.
The state’s information included complete new coronavirus positivity rates in each county for the weeks ending in Aug. 11 and Aug. 18. Los Angeles County’s number dropped from an adjusted rate of 12.9 new cases per 100,000 residents for the week ending Aug. 11 to 10.2 new cases per 100,000 residents the following week, while other key indicators continued to show improvement in the county.
Data from Tuesday, Sept. 1, showed there were 840 new novel coronavirus cases discovered in LA County that day, with 45 new deaths due to the pandemic.
In Malibu, since the pandemic first began, 95 total residents have tested positive for the virus and three have been killed. Positive cases have also been reported in two residential rehabilitation centers: Visions Adolescent Treatment Center, where two staff members tested positive in late August and Paradigm, where one staffer and one resident came down with the illness at the beginning of that month.