LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Unified School District campuses would be an ideal setting for administering COVID-19 vaccines to students and their families, Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday, while again imploring elected officials to provide financial support for schools to prepare for an eventual return to in-person instruction.
Noting that more than 230,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted on school campuses, Beutner said the campuses are geographically positioned to provide access to the vaccine -- first to essential school workers and eventually to students and families.
"The country faces an enormous challenge in making sure the vaccine is made available to essential workers, like the staff who work in our schools as well as those who have been most impacted by the virus: low-income communities of color like those served by our schools," Beutner said in an address to the school community.
"Health experts will need to answer the question of how to provide people with access to the vaccine, including shipping and distributing the vaccine, and training clinical staff to properly administer it," he said. "Schools may be a good answer to the question of where the vaccine can best be provided.
"A quick look at just a few of the communities we serve makes this clear," he said. "Los Angeles Unified is organized around 42 unique groupings of schools, each of which serves a local community. Within the community lives several hundred thousand people in about 10 square miles, and each area has three drug stores, two fire stations and 20 to 30 schools.
"It makes sense to provide the vaccine to students and their families at a place they trust, where they are almost every day -- their local neighborhood school."
Beutner and the top school administrators in New York and Chicago had an op-ed in The Washington Post over the weekend, repeating Beutner's call for a "Marshall Plan" for supporting schools as they look to return to in-person instruction once the pandemic eases.
"Education must be a priority, and elected leaders at the local, state and national levels have to make sure schools have the resources they need to do their job," he said Monday. "The time to act is now."
Beutner said there has been a great deal of attention to the pandemic's impact on hospitals, emergency rooms, businesses and the overall economy.
"There's not been enough media coverage or attention paid to the plight of children during this crisis," he said. "Not just their struggles with online education, but the impact this is having on their social and
emotional wellbeing. This issue too is very real. There's an old saying: 'Just because you can't measure something, doesn't mean it's not important.' This is even more important when it comes to children. Their wellness can't be easily measured. They lack voice in the conversation ... but their needs are very real."
Beutner shared a bit of good news amid the pandemic, saying the Class of 2020 had a record-high graduation rate of 82.9%, something he called a "remarkable accomplishment." But he stressed that the ongoing pandemic and issues with online learning "will impact future graduation rates."