LA County schools resume classes amid surge in local COVID cases, UC schools remote

Amid surging COVID-19 cases across Los Angeles County, thousands of children returned to in-person classes Monday, but with tightened safety protocols.

Among the districts resuming classes Monday was Burbank Unified School District, where parents didn't learn until late Sunday if their children would be returning to campus. The district's Board of Education held a 3 1/2- hour emergency meeting Sunday night to consider delaying the start of classes for a week in light of the surge in infections.

Late Sunday night, Superintendent Matt Hill announced on the district's Facebook page the decision to restart classes as scheduled, writing, "After a robust discussion, the Board of Education decided that schools remain open."

The district's administrators will consider changes in its COVID safety plan this week, including possible mandatory testing for students and staff and enforcing a vaccine booster requirement for all employees by April 1.

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.

Late last week, the county Department of Public Health notified districts across the county of new safety regulations for schools resuming classes. 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."

The largest district in the county, Los Angeles Unified, does not resume classes until Jan. 10. The district 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.

LAUSD's COVID testing centers reopened Monday with extended hours, offering tests by appointment and on a walk-in basis. The state is also making at-home COVID tests available to all students in California.

In a Twitter post Friday, district officials wrote that LAUSD "maintains the highest COVID-19 safety standards of any public school district in the nation: weekly testing of all staff and students; universal masking, indoors and outdoors; comprehensive sanitizing efforts; frequent hand-washing; upgraded air-filtration systems; regular, ongoing COVID-19 testing and community engagement; physical distancing as much as possible; and collaboration with health partners and agencies to support free COVID-19 vaccinations."

"We will adapt our safety standards as needed in order to remain responsive to the changing conditions of the pandemic," the district said.

On the college level, winter quarter classes began remotely Monday at UCLA and UC Irvine. 

Classes will remain remote through Jan. 14, which will provide "time to properly assess our environment through testing, sequestration and re- testing," according to the university.

"We understand that this is not an ideal way to kick off the new year. We are committed to in-person learning, and believe that these protocols will help us return as quickly and safely as possible."

COVID vaccine booster shots are required for eligible UC students and staff.

Tune in to FOX 11 Los Angeles for the latest Southern California news.