LOS ANGELES — State leaders urged again Wednesday for California schools to reopen.
Governor Gavin Newsom said he believes schools can reopen safely by following public health guidelines and without a requirement of staff being vaccinated, even as education leaders like LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner require vaccinations in order to open school doors.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Southern California chapter also issued a statement Wednesday calling for schools to open as long as they follow public health guidelines.
Dr. Alice Kuo, professor of pediatrics at University of California Los Angeles who belongs to the group, said prolonging school closures will lead to worsening health outcomes for children.
“We’re seeing skyrocketing rates of obesity, we’re seeing depression and anxiety and behavioral problems, social and emotional problems, isolation, we’re missing cases of abuse and neglect because kids are not going to school so the list is starting to grow,” Dr. Kuo said.
She believes a return to the classroom can happen safely and vaccines aren’t a requirement for reopening.
“All these other places across the country and around the world have been in session without the vaccine,” Dr. Kuo said. “I look at it as the vaccine is a nice to have, it’s not a must have.”
But many teachers like Lupe Carrasco Cardona feel vaccines are essential to reopening safely. Cardona teaches at Roybal Learning Center which is located in a COVID hotspot. The student body is also 88% Latinx. She believes calls to return to school ignore the severe impact COVID has had on students of color.
“Youth can’t get vaccinated,” Cardona said. “There can be other types of spread happening between the youth and we already know that Black and brown youth in L.A. and Asian youth and families in general have been the hardest impacted and so to think of going back to school before this is under control is really scary.”
Dr. Kuo said she understands many students, teachers, parents, and staff are not yet comfortable returning to campus. She wants the medical community to work with districts to make the transition as safe as possible.
The United Teachers of Los Angeles, the teachers union of LAUSD, released a statement in response to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The statement reads in part: “No schools in California should reopen in a county that is in the purple tier. Essential workers who are putting their lives at risk should also be prioritized for the vaccine rollout.”