LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Los Angeles Unified School District officials gave a glimpse into what classrooms in the COVID-19 era will look like when campuses can safely reopen.
Recently, Superintendent Austin Beutner took a tour of Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park, which is being used as a testing ground for the safety measures, unveiling changes such as hand sanitizing stations, stickers marking one-way hallways, and covered water fountains.
Lindsey Clough, whose son is entering second grade at Dahlia Heights Elementary School, said she’s cautiously optimistic about the changes. She’s been happy to have him at home the past few months, she said, adding she doesn’t feel it’s safe for her son to set foot on any campus right now as the number of coronavirus cases across L.A. County increases. She said several things would put her mind at ease if and when her son is allowed back to school.
“It’s washing your hands, it’s social distance,” Clough said. “If you can’t social distance, it’s wearing a mask. So I think on paper, if we can say all those things can happen in a class and be available, that’s amazing.”
Other safety measures that will be available include markers indicating where kids can sit in the cafeteria, electrostatic cleaning machines, isolation rooms inside the nurse’s office, and signage throughout the school reminding students to stay six feet apart.
“We will have every school at this standard, by the time school starts,” Buetner said during the tour. “So come next week, every school will look very similar to this.”
But Clough said her concern is whether the safety measures will be enforced.
“Is there going to be enough staff, supervision staff to make sure students are sitting in the in-between seats? A sign, you know, can be easily ignored,” Clough said. “So I think those types of protocols are great to have in place as long as there is enough supervision to make sure it’s actually enforced.”
School officials are still working on enforcement plans but Christine Moore, principal at Luther Burbank Middle School, said students also must learn the new guidelines on campus.
“I think it’s a lot of teaching, just like we teach every behavioral expectation when we open the school year, during the regular year,” Moore said. “Also, we know our kids. I know what middle schoolers do. I’ve been here a very long time so preplanning for that is very important.”
Testing and contact tracing also will be included in the safety plan for schools.
“I've continued to say since March, that a robust system of contact tracing, testing, and contact tracing at schools is necessary,” Beutner said. “The Dodgers were tested to go back to work, why not teachers and students. We're working on it. We're working on it at the state level, the local level, and stay tuned.”