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County classrooms may look much different next semester

Face masks, staggered school days

City News Service | 5/29/2020, midnight

Los Angeles County schools won't be the same if and when they reopen this fall, with education officials suggesting steps such as staggered school days, 16-person class sizes, lunches inside classrooms, face masks and other changes to protect against the spread of coronavirus.

Those steps were among the recommended safety guidelines detailed in the Los Angeles County Office of Education's 45-page framework, a document developed through the work of county staffers, outside advisers and representatives from 25 county school systems, each of which is responsible for developing its own reopening plan.

All schools in the region closed in March due to stay-at-home orders protecting against the spread of COVID-19. Reopening dates have not yet been set.

“Our main priority is health and safety,'' said Debra Duardo, superintendent of the county's office of education, which provides services and financial oversight for the county's 80 school systems serving nearly 2 million students. “Unfortunately some of the things that children could enjoy in the past, they're not going to be able to do that.''

Severe safety restrictions on student and educator activities are detailed in the framework, however, the guidelines are not requirements, only suggestions for each district to consider. The only requirements each district must comply with are those set by health officials.

“It's going to be hard to ensure the safe physical reopening of campuses, but one thing that we absolutely know we need to do is we need to be prepared and we need to have plans in place so that we are ready when the time comes for us to reopen,'' Duardo said.

But beyond the framework, Duardo said that-if schools are to reopen this fall-districts still need more guidance from health officials and more financial support from legislators to rise to the challenge of reopening during the pandemic.

“We know schools will need additional resources to become better equipped and skilled at remote learning, address learning loss, implement vital health and safety protocols and support mental health and wellness,'' the head of nation's largest regional education agency said.

“School districts need full funding,'' Lancaster School District Superintendent Michele Bowers said. “This is necessary not only to provide the services that our schools and school districts have provided in the past, and our community so desperately relies on, but there will be significant costs that are additional related to the reopening ... The proposed fiscal cuts are detrimental and will make reopening an even greater challenge.''