LOS ANGELES - More Southland school districts announced they will begin the upcoming school year with online-only classes due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
"During these challenging times, the safety of our school community continues to be our top priority. While we hope at some point to have our students attend our schools alongside their classmates and teachers, now is not the time," Santa Ana Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Almendarez said. "Meanwhile, we are working to develop a rigorous distance learning plan that will allow students to continue their education at home."
Board of Education President Rigo Rodriguez added, "We want to proceed with extreme caution as we move forward with our efforts to offer a robust education."
"Making the decision now to shift to a virtual education model gives the district more time to make sure our teachers are fully prepared, our parents are well informed, and our students have access to devices and internet needed for us to deliver the highest quality service during this time," he added.
On Monday, the Orange County Board of Education voted 4-1 to recommend opening campuses next month without masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, but the decision is not binding on any of the county's districts.
The Long Beach Unified School District also announced Tuesday it will begin the new year with online instruction, delaying the possibility of in-person classes until at least Oct. 15.
"This decision was a hard one to make, but we have done so with input from our local and county health departments," the district's incoming superintendent, Jill Baker, said in a video announcement. "... COVID-19 cases continue to increase, hospitalizations are on the rise and the percentage of positive tests is also climbing. In full protection of our district's staff and students, we have decided that beginning with online instruction and closely monitoring the health data as Oct. 5th approaches will be our best next step."
Baker said Monday's announcement by the Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts that they would both be starting the new school year online influenced the decision in Long Beach.
Also Tuesday, the superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District recommended that campuses in the district remain closed for the beginning of the school year due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County.
Superintendent Brian McDonald said he wants the district's 23 schools to begin instruction on Aug. 17, but with a 100% distance-learning model.
"All of us would like to see students back in school when it's safe to do so. But Los Angeles County has recorded a surge in new cases in the last week, with a 9% rate of positive cases," McDonald wrote in a letter to the PUSD community. "We cannot and will not take chances with the health and safety of our students and staff. I plan to bring a recommendation to the Board of Education at a special meeting on July 16 that Pasadena Unified open in a 100% distance learning model on August 17."
McDonald said the district has been preparing for such a possibility, and will continue to monitor and evaluate public health conditions and guidelines for a possible to return to in-person learning on campus. The district's school board previously announced the school year would begin Aug. 17 with a combination of in-person and distance learning.
The PUSD comprises more than 16,700 students in a 76-square mile area that includes Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.