LOS ANGELES – Health protocols for the possible reopening of schools in Los Angeles County could be released by Friday, the county’s public health director said Wednesday, insisting she will not get mired in the mounting political debate of whether campuses should be required to open this fall.
Barbara Ferrer said the guidelines have been in the works for several weeks in consultation with superintendents across the county and they will serve as a planning document for individual school districts as they make reopening decisions and plan for a possible return of in-person courses.
She said that during a conference call with education leaders on Tuesday, she advised them to have a “Plan B” in case the coronavirus continues its recent pattern of community spread.
“The Plan B has always been a plan if there was way too much community transmission, it may in fact mean there has to be a longer period of time for there to be more virtual learning as opposed to on-campus learning,” Ferrer said. “… It’s really important that when we have so much community transmission to understand the impact is far-reaching … on the reopening not only of school campuses but other sectors that still haven’t reopened.
“… You absolutely would not want to open a sector when you thought the result of a reopening could be an explosion of outbreaks within that sector,” she said. “So we’re going to continue to be mindful of what our data is telling us.”
The potential reopening of schools in the fall has become a major political issue in recent days, with President Donald Trump threatening to withhold federal funding from states that do not return to in-person learning.
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, schools are open with no problems,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November election, but (it) is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”
Trump also blasted proposed guidelines for school reopenings released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling the protocols “very tough & expensive.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declined to bite on Trump’s funding threat, insisting the question of whether schools reopen will be “a data-informed decision.”
“I’m not worried about the latest tweets, and I could give you ad-nauseam examples of why I’ve concluded that that’s not the issue that we need to address,” Newsom said. “What we need to address is safely reopening the schools and we need to make that a foundational principle. That to me is not negotiable. We have to safely reopen our schools.”
Ferrer also said the county will be focused on health data, not politics.
“We’re working here in conjunction with all of the county school districts and with our supervisors and governor’s office on making sure we’re doing right by students, by teachers, by staff and by the families of all the students, teachers and staff,” she said. “And I think that’s really the goal for us to stay focused on here. And I’ll leave the politics around this to other people.
“This is really a time for us to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of everyone who lives in this county, and I think we have a unified team here in our county that’s, you know, sort of making informed decisions to reduce as much of the risk that’s really attached to the novel coronavirus wherever we can and do that in manners that offer as much safety as possible. And we’re gonna stay on that road as we move forward.”