Los Angeles County to allow eligible elementary schools to reopen amid drop in case rates

Eligible elementary schools across Los Angeles County could get the green light to reopen classes for in-person instruction this week. 

Starting Tuesday, February 16, schools can reopen for Kindergarten through the sixth grade if they have a waiver or have submitted their COVID-19 safety plans in advance, officials said. 

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that 12 school districts in the county have already submitted approved safety plans allowing them to open for in-person learning for students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, as have 173 private or charter schools. Safety plans are still under review for two other school districts and seven more private/charter schools.

Los Angeles Unified is among the districts with approved safety plans, although that district likely will not immediately resume in-person instruction due to union demands for vaccinations prior to returning to campuses.

Monday's development comes as Los Angeles County has reached the state's threshold for reopening elementary schools, Hahn said on social media. Los Angeles County reported 1,869 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 new deaths. However, county officials say coronavirus patients in local hospitals are continuing to decline, dropping from 3,270 Sunday to 3,092 Monday, with 30% of the patients in ICU.

In addition, updated figures released by the state show that the number of LA County residents hospitalized due to the virus has now fallen below 3,000, at 2,964.

"This is what we have been working towards. Thank you to everyone who has worn your masks and kept your distance. Case rates in LA County are dropping. Now we can continue the work getting our kids and teachers safely back in classrooms where they belong," Hahn said, in part, on social media.

Hahn later told FOX 11 that the county had to get below 2,500 cases per day and needed to hold that per day.

"We have now done that. In fact, we're below that," Hahn said of the threshold. "We're at 2,000 cases per day. So that was the magic number for us... and now, elementary schools can reopen safely."

Rima Fawaz, a math teacher at LAUSD, believes the union will not accept the reopening.

"A school district that has already made it clear... schools should not reopen until teachers and staff have been vaccinated," Fawaz said.

LA County did not specify when secondary schools can reopen in the county.

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