Preventing the spread of COVID-19 during the reopening of schools is a top priority in Los Angeles County.

“We are continuing to see a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in LA County (due to the Delta variant),” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the LA County Department of Public Health. “Vaccinations are the most powerful tool for lowering transmission.”

On Aug. 4, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) held a virtual town hall to discuss how to keep students, teachers, and staff safe. “We all have a part to play to make this happen,” Ferrer said.

LA Public Health is hosting an ambassador program to encourage parents to share best practices when it comes to COVID-19 education.

However, at this time, only students who are 12 years of age or older are eligible to be vaccinated. Within the county’s 80 school districts (the largest being LAUSD) there are no mandates for teachers or staff members to be vaccinated.

“We’re also working with our 80 school districts that are preparing for in-person learning this school year,” said Dr. Debra Duardo, LACOE superintendent.

However, Duardo said 83 percent of the county’s teachers and staff members have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Schools are probably the safest place to be to prevent the spread of COVID,” Duardo continued. “Children are doing a wonderful job wearing masks.”

LACOE has implemented a host of mitigation efforts. Students will follow physical distancing guidelines when it does not hinder learning. Schools will have improved ventilation. They will also require everyone to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status, an effort that will be enforced by county leaders.

“We see cases spiking at a high rate but we know we can do this,” added Tony Thurmond, superintendent of public instruction for the State of California. “We should use COVID testing and masking as part of our strategy for keeping schools open.”

Thurmond said school districts are committed to frequently testing employees and students when needed.

“We’ve worked with the governor to get more than five million rapid COVID tests,” Thurmond shared.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 prevention is a must if students are going to attend school in-person during the 2021-2022 school year. Communication is also important.

“Talk to your child every morning… if they are ill, we need to keep them home,” said Dr. Nava Yeganeh, a physician at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Yeganeh said it is also extremely important that parents make sure their children have a comfortable mask that they can wear all day while they are indoors at school.

Officials reiterated that the entire community will have to work together, to keep students, teachers, and staff members healthy.

“If your child is 12 years or older, please get them vaccinated,” said Dr. Robert Glichick, the child and adolescent health section chief at the LA County Public Health.

Virtual learning through independent study is still an option for parents who do not want to send their child to school in person.

Ferrer said parents will be notified if their child has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 at school. For more information, visit VaccinateLACounty.com.