With all staff and most students age 12 and older on campus expected to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by early January, Los Angeles Unified officials plan to update some of the school district’s health and safety protocols next semester. including policies regarding who should undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and who may remove their masks outdoors.
Beginning next semester, which begins January 11, only unvaccinated students will be required to undergo a baseline COVID-19 test in the first week of the new semester, and be tested weekly going forward – a marked departure from the current requirement that all students and staff members, regardless of vaccination status, are tested weekly.
According to a report from district staff to the school board on Tuesday, Nov. 16, this change in the testing requirement reflects the fact that the overall number of new cases continues to fall as vaccination coverage increases, and that there is a low risk of viral transmission from vaccinated individuals without symptoms. , especially in masked environments.
The change will help reduce disruption in the classroom – as fewer students will have to take the school day off to get tested, and tests would also be faster – reduce the headmaster’s workload of contact tracing, the district funds save by increasing the number of tests administered daily from about 100,000 to 50,000, and give students an incentive to get vaccinated, district officials said.
As for outdoor masking, that policy—which requires LAUSD but is not a state mandate—applies only to schools where less than 85% of students are fully vaccinated. That means that all high schools, many high schools, and some elementary campuses with high enough vaccination rates can allow students to take off their masks outside.
However, everyone will still need to mask indoors, regardless of whether they received their COVID-19 shots or whether their school has a high vaccination coverage.
Vaccination mandates and boosters
While LAUSD does not currently require students ages 5-11 to be vaccinated, officials said Tuesday they have not ruled out a potential mandate for this age group.
“Just as the district waited several months after approval (emergency use authorization) before making the vaccine mandatory for students aged 12 and older, it will be some time before considering a mandate for 5- to 11-year-olds,” states the personnel report.
In terms of booster shots, the district will not require these, although it will make booster doses available to employees and students 18 and older who want them.
The district will also adopt an “modified quarantine policy,” consistent with county guidelines, so that an unvaccinated student who is asymptomatic can continue to attend school in person after being identified as a close contact as the exposed student and the infected student was wearing both masks at the time of exposure and the close contact is not part of an outbreak situation.
Vaccinated students do not need to be quarantined.
District officials warn that while they plan to relax some health and safety protocols for the time being, the reverse could happen depending on whether local COVID-19 conditions or provincial guidelines change.
“We hope it remains a small group of people who show up with positive tests. We hope we’ll get more and more students vaccinated, but… we’re going to follow the science and the reality,” said board member Jackie Goldberg. “And if the reality changes, unfortunately we may have to come back and look at this again.”