REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – The Beach Cities Health District and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have teamed to launch a COVID-19 symptom assessment tool for school teachers, parents, and staff – primarily in the South Bay’s Beach Cities – to use as school districts look toward a return to campus.
According to BHCD, the tool will initially be used by school staff as they return to campus, as well as students enrolled in child development centers. All three local school districts (Redondo Beach Unified School District, Manhattan Beach Unified School District, and Hermosa Beach City School District) began the new school year with distance learning on Aug. 26. As students return to on-campus education, the tool is designed to be used by both school staff and families.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us all to be innovative and resourceful in finding effective and efficient ways to ensure the health and safety of our community,” said CHLA’s Chief Innovation Officer, Omkar Kulkarni.
Beach Cities Health District has a long-established partnership with CHLA; in recent years, the two entities have joined forces to work on speakers series and student-athlete health initiatives, and Kulkarni has previously sat on BCHD’s Community Health Committee.
About a month into the pandemic, CHLA called the health district with a proposal.
“They reached out to let us know about some new tech they were building to help respond to the pandemic to support schools across the county and wanted to know if we’d be interested in exploring it along with our local school districts,” said BCHD Director of Youth Services Ali Steward.
It’s similar to other symptom assessment tools developed over the pandemic, but it’s based on one CHLA has used for visitors and staff at its facilities, Steward said.
The application, which can be found at bchdcovidscreen.org, has options for both district employees and student parents or guardians. It asks a series of questions, including whether they have felt any COVID-related symptoms, have been in close proximity to anyone who has COVID symptoms, or is awaiting results on a COVID test.
If the student or staffer passes the assessment, they’ll be presented with a timestamped red or green screen to present to school staff.
So far, BCHD is the only agency that is working with CHLA on the symptom assessment tool.
The Redondo Beach Unified School District has found the tool to be very helpful already to this point — it’s used by staff at every school site and at the administrative offices (even RBUSD Superintendent Steven Keller uses the assessment each day before heading to the district office).
“It’s been super easy to use and very fast – and if someone forgets their phone or their laptop, we do have all of the questions and a thermometer for people as a backup,” said RBUSD Executive Director of Special Education Jessica Silberling.
Eventually, when the district does go back to some form of on-campus education, students in grades 6 through 12 will be asked to use the tool to complete those same assessments before going to campus. Students will be asked to go to different entrances, based on their name.
The tool, which is a web-based application, also does not store any data, Silberling said.
The Los Angeles County Health Officer’s order issuing reopening protocols for K-12 schools requires that all students, visitors, and staff must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath, or fever, before entering the school. Those checks may be done remotely, the order notes, by using a digital app. In-person screening will also be available for students and staff at school entrances.
“We are diligently preparing for the time when we can reopen all of our campuses, hopefully sooner than later. I know that our students and our employees miss being in school,” said Dr. Michael Matthews, superintendent of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. “We know that it is better for our students to be in school, but to get them back, we must behave safely and responsibly, while ensuring that our children do the same.”
As of the order’s most recent update, Aug. 18, district employees will be permitted to work on school sites. However, the County is not yet offering waivers to open elementary school sites.
When schools open, campuses must have plans for preventing and responding to COVID infections, including social distancing management, hand-washing, and face-covering requirements for all students older than two years.
“It is our greatest hope that we will be able to resume in-person instruction as soon as we can safely do so,” said Hermosa Beach schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Johnson. “We will continue to monitor what options are available to safely reopen schools and appreciate the passion and perseverance of our school community to support all of our children’s education.”
The tool is currently designed only for the Beach City school districts, though Steward said that there is a possibility it will expand into neighboring school districts.