LOS ANGELES COUNTY – The Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger and coauthored by Supervisor Janice Hahn that will enable elementary schools to begin applying for a waiver to reopen grades TK-2 in schools, prioritizing schools with a high number of low-income students.

“The closure of schools in L.A. County has severely impacted families and students throughout our communities,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “In addition to diminished access to quality education, we have seen a decline in the social and emotional well-being of children and youth. As October approaches, it is crucial that we begin the process of reopening schools at limited capacity and provide ample time for schools to slowly bring students, teachers and staff back to campus.”

Earlier this month, L.A. County opened schools for Individualized Education Programs, which was limited to a small subset of students. While schools cannot fully reopen until the county advances into the state’s second tier, there is currently an opportunity to allow waivers for elementary schools. This would enable limited in-person instruction for children whose ages benefit most from classroom learning.

“Our residents have made sacrifices to slow the spread of this virus and were even able to avoid a spike in cases after Labor Day,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “With the support of our public health experts, these waivers are a way to start bringing more students back to school safely.  For this to work, we need to make sure that each school that reopens does so only after parent input along with having support from the teachers and staff.”

“Given the size and scope of Los Angeles County, our residents have done an admirable job containing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Supervisor Barger said. “The state’s guidelines reflect this and are structured to allow for reopening while limiting community transmission through safety protocols. The county should move forward with the state’s approved process for granting waivers to enable schools to reopen.”

The motion directs the Department of Public Health to implement the school waiver program for grades TK-2, with a priority for schools with a higher percentage of low-income students, divided among the five supervisorial districts throughout the county. Any unclaimed waivers will be redistributed to ensure a cap of 30 schools per week.

This effort also asks the Department of Public Health to provide biweekly updates to the Board of Supervisors concerning the waiver process, compliance at reopened schools, suggestions regarding contact tracing workflow and efforts to improve the quality and quantity of data recorded regarding school exposures.