Nearly a third of public school students in Los Angeles were absent Tuesday on their first day back from winter break, officials said, as the district requires each child to be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.
The 68.8 percent of students at Los Angeles Unified School District that did make it to class were forced to stand in long lines as school officials made sure each child had proof of a negative coronavirus test before entering the building.
As of late Tuesday, there was a 15 percent COVID-19 positivity rate among employees and 17 percent for students.
LAUSD will keep on testing students and staff weekly through January as Omicron cases continue to surge in Los Angeles County.
Students who showed up to school on Tuesday without a negative result were tested on-site.
The district had handed out about 300,000 take-home antigen tests in preparation for the spring classes, said LAUSD Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin. Another 150,000 are expected to be distributed in the coming days.
In the meantime, LAUSD also will continue to provide PCR testing for students at the 12 district locations throughout LA County.
While there were some issues on Tuesday with loading and accessing information from the district’s Daily Pass system, Ortiz Franklin told the Post school officials were ready to deal with any first-day snafus.
“There were some glitches in the Daily Pass system, which happened last semester as well, but we always plan for contingencies,” Franklin said.
“Our schools printed the list of kids who were cleared to enter the campus. It took a little bit longer than we would’ve liked, but we anticipated that.”
Kids who tested positive and have to quarantine for at least five days are communicating with teachers and attending classes online.
On Monday, teachers prepared assignments and lesson plans for students who would have to start their first day of school virtually.
Franklin told the Post that teacher shortages were already an issue before the pandemic, but with the latest COVID surge, the district is doing whatever it can to make sure classes are staffed. Some classrooms might have to mix students from different classes, she said.
“With close to 15 percent of our staff being positive out this week, we deployed folks from the central office and asked local school districts if they have a teaching credential if they could cover a class,” Ortiz Franklin said.
“The students could get dispersed into another classroom, or a teacher will cover a class during their conference period. So rather than the teacher grading papers or planning, they have to step in and substitute. There is a real team spirit, and I would say that’s not just because of the pandemic, but it really has taught us that we are all in this together.”