COVID-19 Delta variant injects uncertainty into back-to-school season
This week thousands of Los Alamitos Unified School District families started the 2021-22 academic year. It’s the third school year to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eight LAUSD campuses welcomed students back for full-time in-person instruction on August 16. (Weaver Elementary started August 4).
Parents are expressing a range of emotions.
“So excited!” answered one parent in response to a post on a Seal Beach Facebook page asking about the new school year.
“Concerned,” wrote another.
“I’m excited and concerned but who wouldn’t be!?” wrote McGaugh Elementary school parent Todrianna Etheridge. She added: “We got this and I believe it’s gonna be a wonderful year!”
“Ready. Set. Go. No looking back,” wrote Jackie Dominick who has two kids in the district.
Last year students in LAUSD were enrolled in hybrid or virtual learning. The goal this year is to keep kids inside classrooms for full-day in-person instruction. But the dominant Delta variant of the coronavirus has injected uncertainty into the back-to-school season.
The Delta variant is fueling an increase in cases in Orange County and nationwide, especially among the unvaccinated, which includes children under 12 who are still ineligible for the shot.
Schools in other parts of the country with less restrictive COVID-19 measures, including in Texas and Georgia, have already shut down temporarily this school year after outbreaks among staff and students.
In a message sent to LAUSD families on Friday, Superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver wrote that the guidance the district is following from the California Department of Public Health “is designed to enable all schools to offer and provide full in-person instruction to all students safely, consistent with the current scientific evidence about COVID-19, even if pandemic dynamics shift throughout the school year, affected by vaccination rates and the potential emergence of viral variants.”
LAUSD’s COVID-19 safety plan outlines what’s being done to curb infections on campuses including:
• Requiring all students and teachers to wear masks when indoors together regardless of vaccination status.
• Requiring all school staff to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
• Screening for symptoms, improved classroom ventilation with air filters, increased disinfection and cleaning of campuses and handwashing.
On its Instagram page, McAuliffe Middle School shared pictures of students on their first day of school masked up inside classrooms. Others were seen hanging out together on benches outside where masks are optional.
LAUSD will continue to track active COVID-19 cases with its online Dashboard. On August 16, it showed a total of nine cases among the district’s roughly 10,200 students and staff.
Nearly 30,000 children age 17 and under have tested positive for COVID-19 in Orange County since the pandemic started.
“To say kids are immune from COVID is absolutely a lie,” Orange County’s Public Health Director Dr. Clayton Chau said during a media briefing on Friday, according to the Orange County Register.
“We are expecting the cases will rise, especially if schools are not enforcing the face mask mandate,” Chau said.
But for some parents, the mask mandate meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is what’s causing concern. Parent groups like Let Them Breathe are holding rallies at school board meetings across Southern California to urge leaders to make masks optional.
(The Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education held its meeting on Tuesday, August 17 after the Event-News Enterprise’s publication deadline.)
LAUSD’s Dr. Pulver has said the district and Board cannot lessen the CDPH’s mask requirements.
“The Orange County Health Care Agency, the Orange County Department of Education, local school boards, districts or schools may not implement policies that are less restrictive than the mandates required by CDPH which are enforceable under the California Emergency Services Act, Government Code 8665,” reads a joint statement from issued by the Orange County Department of Education and the Orange County Health Care Agency last month.
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