F. Castro/SFVS Principal Melanie Welsh of Reseda Charter School gave a tour of the campus on Monday April 5 to LAUSD Board President Kelly Gonez and Los Angeles City Councilmember to show them the steps they've taken to assure a safe campus when students return on April 26.

Students wearing face masks will first stop at the gate of their school and have their temperatures checked with a hand-held thermometer. The students will also present a code from their cell phones with the Daily Pass app, that has their answers to several questions asked daily regarding their health.

When the students enter their classrooms, they will sit alone at a desk separated from the rest of their peers by six feet. They will receive their homeroom instruction from an in-person teacher; but the rest of their classes will still be online, so they will be using a school-issued laptop.

That is what awaits the students who return to classrooms throughout Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) campuses starting April 12.

Sixty-one elementary and 11 early education centers will open that day. The remaining schools in those grade levels will open the week of April 19, and middle and high schools will open the week of April 26.

Returning to school is optional. Parents can opt in or opt out every two weeks, and only a few of the more than 600,000 LAUSD students will begin attending when campuses open April 12.

Student Safety First

At Reseda Charter High School, only 250 of its approximately 1,400-member student body has agreed to return, said Principal Melanie Welsh, who toured the campus with LAUSD School Board President Kelly Gonez and Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield on Monday, April 5, to show all the steps they’re taking to assure the safety of students.

Those 250 students will attend twice a week — on Mondays and Thursdays — with the biggest classrooms having a maximum of 10 students.

“If the number of students opting to come to school goes up, then we’ll open more days,” Welsh said. 

Gonez said she understands the decision to start sending students back to school is “complicated,” and that each family has to make that decision based on their particular situation.

“Families have to make the right choice for their families. That’s why we are still continuing that virtual option because we know that for some families that is the best choice,” Gonez said.

But she wanted to make sure parents know the district is doing “all it can” to assure student safety while on campus, “including doubling our custodial staff, purchasing high-tech cleaning equipment that doesn’t just clean but sanitizes, as well as having all the necessary PPE on hand” to ensure safety.

“Having our teachers and our classified staff vaccinated is another factor to make sure our students remain safe,” Gonez said. “Most of our teachers will have been fully vaccinated by the time they return. A very small percentage are declining the vaccination.”

There is caveat to that. Teachers and staff are not required to be vaccinated, Welsh said. In fact, the principal can’t even ask them whether they’ve been vaccinated or not.

Daily Pass

While the district asks that students get a COVID-19 test prior to returning to campus and a promise to conduct follow-up tests each week after, it is also encouraging students to get Daily Pass — a web app that generates a QR code authorizing entry into a LAUSD campus for the day as long as the individual receives a negative COVID-19 test result, shows no symptoms and has a temperature under 100 degrees.

Gonez said while the district “strongly encourages” families to have access and comply with the Daily Pass, it is not a requirement. 

“All of our students should be able to access it on their district-issued devices,” Gonez said, adding that there will also be a non-tech option at school sites “where students can access all the same questions verbally if they haven’t had a chance to do the Daily Pass.”

Cleaning and Hygiene

Elementary students will only have live instruction for three hours each day, but can stay on campus all day.

“If you want them to stay from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., there is childcare available where students can work on homework or projects. There will be arts, sports,” Gonez explained.

Middle and high school students will have regular school hours.

Besides an assortment of PPE, including face masks and hand sanitizers, Reseda Charter High School has added two additional cleaning staff to sanitize each classroom used every day.

The cleaning crews have an electrostatic machine that sprays a disinfectant mist that kills germs, bacteria and viruses on any surface.

“It attaches to the COVID and kills it,” explained Edil Guzman, a custodian at the school who gave a demonstration on the use of the machine.

While the federal Center for Disease Controls and Prevention does not list this extra sanitation step among its guidelines for returning to classrooms, states and counties can take further steps they deem necessary.  

While the precautions are in place, there’s no telling how many students will actually show up. With six weeks of instruction left in the school year, many parents are opting for their children to remain at home and continue taking classes online.

Gonez said she understands that.

“I know that for some families (all the hygiene and cleaning effort) is still not enough and that’s OK. But we do want families to be aware of all the steps that we’ve undertaken to assure the safety of our students,” she said.