EDITOR'S NOTE: Multimedia journalist Kristopher Gee spoke with an LAUSD parent about the distribution of COVID tests. Click the arrow above to watch the video. (Jan. 7, 2022)
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — With classes set to begin next week, the Los Angeles Unified School District began distributing thousands of take-home COVID-19 tests to students' families Friday so they can meet the requirement of logging a negative test before returning to campuses.
The LAUSD is requiring all students and staff to be tested ahead of the re-start of classes. District staff are expected back on campuses Monday, with the start of classes pushed back until Tuesday.
The testing requirement appears to be paying dividends, with the baseline testing revealing a large number of infections. Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly told reporters during a distribution event at Johnnie Cochran Middle School that the district is reporting a roughly 13% positivity rate thus far, well above the rate from late last year.
While elevated, that rate is still below the county as a whole. As of Thursday, the county's overall testing-positivity rate was about 22%
"Our positivity rate is about 13%," Reilly told KNX radio. "The layered protections we have in school, it works to create a safer environment than what you're seeing out in the community."
District officials mandated the testing ahead of spring classes to identify students and staff who may have picked up infections over the winter break — possibly through family holiday gatherings.
To assist in the testing effort, the district on Friday began distributing take-home tests to students at dozens of its Grab & Go food distribution sites. The distribution effort will continue Saturday morning.
The take-home tests are among roughly 6 million obtained by the state and distributed to education offices and districts across California in hopes of testing all students before they return to classes.
According to the district, students and employees can get tested at district sites, with appointments available online at lausd.net/covidtestingappt or by calling 213-443-1300. Walk-in testing is also available at district sites.
Students and employees can also get tested at non-district sites, but they must upload results onto the district's Daily Pass system no later than Sunday.
Students and employees at LAUSD campuses and all other schools in the county will also be subject to stricter COVID safety protocols, which were announced on New Year's Eve by the county Department of Public Health.
The rules require all students and staff to wear masks outdoors "where physical distancing is not feasible," and employees must wear upgraded surgical or higher-level masks instead of cloth ones.
The new rules recommend, but do not require, students to wear non- cloth masks "with a nose wire." The requirement for upgraded masks — which must be provided to staff by districts — will take effect two weeks after schools reopen.
The revised protocols from the county also include a "strong recommendation for all eligible staff and students to receive a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in addition to their primary vaccine series."
COVID testing is also required "for all close contacts who are permitted to remain in school immediately after exposure, regardless of vaccination or booster status."
LAUSD recently opted to delay enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students until the fall, with officials saying they hoped to improve the roughly 87% vaccination rate before forcing non-compliant students into remote learning.
The district will continue to require baseline and weekly testing of all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, through January. Beginning in February, only unvaccinated students will be required to undergo weekly testing.