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Waiver Program Would Allow LA County Schools To Reopen To Students For Fall Semester

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As Los Angeles County reported single-day highs in coronavirus cases and deaths Wednesday, the question of whether schools could resume in-person instruction this fall came to a head.

Students In Class File

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county health director, announced that school districts would soon be able to apply for a waiver allowing them to reopen classrooms.

"In order to apply, we'll need a letter from the district superintendent, or the equivalent from a private school, requesting the waiver," she said. "The letter must include information about the number of students and the number of staff that would be returning to classrooms along with the anticipated schedule for in-classroom instruction."

The county health department released a detailed checklist for primary and secondary schools to follow including policies and procedures to keep students and staff safe, physical distancing measures, infection control, a communication plan and special needs services.

The news comes as the Los Angeles teachers union negotiates with the school district about whether teachers will have to go to campus — even for remote learning.

"We don't think that should be mandatory," Alex Orozco, UTLA treasurer, said. "We think that it's not safe, the district has not yet proven to us any safety protocols or laid out a plan for us to really feel comfortable asking our members to return to their classrooms."

At this point, the Los Angeles Unified School District has not said whether it is considering requesting a waiver under the new program, but the county said all application decisions would have to be done in collaboration with labor unions and parent organizations.

"The decision to grant a waiver will be based on ensuring that schools are able to open in full adherence with the school reopening protocols, along with reviewing epidemiological data for each school district," Ferrer said. "The process also requires a consultation with the California Department of Public Health prior to accepting or rejecting the waiver application."

When asked for comment, LAUSD did not go into specifics but said its goal was to provide the best possible education for all students while keeping everyone safe.

Ferrer also announced a new $15 million fund to provide childcare vouchers for essential workers and low-income families.

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