The announcement this week that Los Angeles County coronavirus rates have finally dropped low enough to allow for the immediate reopening of elementary schools is leading to an uneven return to class — fast in districts serving more affluent communities, but just one step in an arduous climb for school systems elsewhere, including in L.A. Unified.
Both school leaders and families face difficult choices after pandemic-forced school closures nearly a year ago upended the education of about 1.5 million students in L.A. County and about 6 million statewide. Every school system has the authority to decide how far to go when reopening elementary campuses — and how soon.
Smaller school systems in more prosperous communities — and many private schools — appear poised to quickly expand in-person instruction; many have been calling for it. But in larger districts and those serving mainly low-income areas, concerns about vaccinations for school staff and community anxiety over health risks are making for harder decisions.
“Who wouldn’t celebrate the fact that the numbers are coming down and schools now have the ability to reopen?” said Debra Duardo, superintendent of the L.A. County Office of Education, which offers services and support for 80 county school districts. But “it’s very different depending on what community you’re talking about. In poorer neighborhoods that are disproportionately impacted, where families have had higher exposure to COVID, where children have had family members sick or dying, it’s a different experience.”
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