- The Los Angeles Unified School District started testing its students and employees for the coronavirus on Monday.
- It plans to test all its students and staff members throughout the upcoming school year. The district serves about about 600,000 students and 75,000 staff members.
- “Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a Sunday statement. The research will be used to “study the impact and effects,” he said.
- The district covers 1,386 schools spread over a 710 square-mile area. It is the second largest school district in the US.
- Because the rate of transmission in Los Angeles is more than twice the state recommendation for reopening schools, the school year began remotely this week.
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A school district in Los Angeles – the second largest in the US – began a monumental effort to test nearly 700,000 of its students and staff on Monday as the school year begins and authorities weigh whether to reopen campuses.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions,” Austin Beutner, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said in a statement published Sunday.
If a student or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, their entire household will be given access to a test, Beutner said. Testing will also be given to household members who show COVID-19 symptoms, he said.
The district contains 1,386 schools spread over a 710 square-mile area which includes most of the city of Los Angeles, according to the district fact sheet. Only the New York City Public Schools district is larger than Los Angeles Unified.
The results of the testing drive will be used to “study the impact and effects of reopening,” Beutner said.
“This program will also provide significant education benefits for students by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there,” he added.
Los Angeles County is currently the worst-hit county in the US, with nearly 222,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.
Schools have not opened their campuses for the fall semester, and Los Angeles Unified announced on July 14 that it would begin the school year totally online.
“The level of new cases in Los Angeles are still 2.5 times the state guidelines, and while the portion of those testing positive is below state thresholds, it’s still considerably higher than the World Health Organisation standards and those in place for New York,” Beutner told the LA Times on Monday.
The district’s testing drive is a joint project with UCLA, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft, Anthem Blue Cross, and HealthNet, and will cost around $US150 million, the LA Times reported.
Healthcare experts and education professionals are divided over whether schools should reopen, despite a sustained campaign from President Donald Trump.
Many experts say it is too soon to reopen campuses, and that it would increase the spread of the virus. However, there are others who say it is safe to reopen and argue it will help reluctant parents return to their workplaces.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is now advising that children should return to school after pressure from Trump.