The South Pasadena Unified School District remains on track to bring select 3rd-grade students back to classrooms next week with an eye on returning some 4th- and 5th-graders shortly afterward.
In the meantime, many teachers with the district will be receiving the first doses of their COVID-19 vaccinations today and tomorrow, through a program with Keck Medicine of USC. The moves are all part of a reopening that is unveiling cautiously as daily new cases and hospitalizations continue to plummet from a disastrous winter holiday surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
Arroyo Vista, Marengo and Monterey Hills elementary schools reopened their doors to transitional kindergarten through 2nd-grade students on Feb. 18, after Los Angeles County fell to an adjusted daily new case rate of fewer than 25 cases for every 100,000 residents. The district had somewhat of a head start here because it previously secured waivers and the approval of health inspectors to reopen schools by that date, and remains among the dozen or so districts in the county with in-person instruction right now.
“We have taken gradual, thoughtful steps and are well-prepared,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz wrote in an update to families recently. “We are thankful for the sacrifices families have made during distance learning and for the extraordinary work by our teachers and support staff. Everyone is committed to a safe return to physical classrooms. I look forward to engaging in additional discussions, returning more students safely to the schools, adjusting to day-to-day changes in guidance and regulations, and facing new challenges.”
For now, 3rd-graders are slated to begin coming back on Thursday, March 11, while 4th- and 5th-graders will return on Monday, March 15. In-person instruction is voluntary and families can keep their students in remote learning for the remainder of the year.
District officials and school board members also expect to update return-to-classroom plans for middle and high school students, as L.A. County continues to trek toward the red tier of coronavirus spread, which among other things requires an adjusted daily new case rate of no more than seven per 100,000 residents. As of this week, L.A. County was at 7.2.
Once a county reaches all numerical requirements, it must remain within those ranges for two weeks before improving a tier.
Starting today and running through Saturday, Keck Medicine of USC is providing COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers from SPUSD, among other districts such as San Marino and La Cañada unified. The L.A. County Department of Public Health this week opened up vaccine eligibility to teachers and childcare workers, emergency responders and those working in the food and agriculture industries.
An official with Keck said 800 teachers from those three districts were expected to get their first doses this week.
“We’re very excited,” said Felipe Osorno, executive admintrator of continuum of care operations at Keck. “Many of us are parents and we believe strongly that kids belong in the classrooms. We’re excited to help a piece of our society get back to some normality.”
Teachers will go to the Norris Healthcare Center in Boston Heights to receive their shots, in part because of the storage requirements for the vaccines — they are using Pfizer’s — and also in the unlikely event someone experiences a medical emergency afterward.
“We have a very robust vaccine operation that we’ve been running for two months, since the vaccine became available,” Osorno said. “We have given over 30,000 doses, so we have a process that works.”