Only a week after Los Alamitos High School in Orange County reopened, a student tested positive for COVID-19, according to Spectrum News 1. This is happening across the country as high schools rush to reopen, risking the lives of students, school staff and families.
Los Angeles Unified School District should not reopen schools until next semester at the earliest. In a statement on November 2, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said, “it will not be possible for schools to reopen this semester.” If LAUSD schools open too soon, there is the possibility of either infecting people at the school with COVID-19 or having to shut down again. This would be catastrophic.
According to the Washington Post, the United States reached a total of 9 million COVID-19 infections on October 30. On a local level, Los Angeles County averaged 1,351 new COVID-19 cases and 11.9 new COVID-19 deaths per day during the week of Oct. 26, according to the Los Angeles Times. These numbers indicate that reopening schools soon would be very risky.
Besides safety concerns, another issue is the chance that if LAUSD schools reopen too soon, they will have to shut down again. For example, several high schools in Illinois reopened then closed down again, according to the Chicago Tribune. New Trier High School, one of these schools, reverted to distance learning after only being open for five days.
Timing is also important to consider when deciding whether or not to reopen schools. Returning to school in January, at the start of the next semester, might still be dangerous. While waiting until January makes much more sense from both a scheduling and a safety perspective, it may still be too soon.
Those who are pushing for LAUSD to reopen schools quickly are mostly parents concerned about their students falling behind in their learning. Many parents of LAUSD students believe that the education their children receive “this year will not be sufficient,” according to Los Angeles Daily News. These are valid concerns, especially considering that the distance learning school day is significantly shorter than the traditional LAUSD school day and each class period only has two instructional days per week.
The solution to students falling behind is not to reopen LAUSD schools when it is unsafe. By providing additional support to teachers and students through tutoring, advisory periods, distributing internet hotspots and more, the district can and has assisted students in staying on track with schoolwork.
The distance learning situation isn’t ideal and students are dealing with the consequences. Reopening schools in the near future would be far worse. The health and safety of LAUSD schools’ communities need to be the priority and that means waiting to reopen until next semester.