First published in the Sept. 30 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada Unified School District modified its reopening and safety plan for the year in an effort to mitigate any more possible disruptions to in-person instruction due to COVID-19.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently gave schools the option of adjusting their quarantine policy to allow unvaccinated students in kindergarten through 12th grade who were exposed to an asymptomatic person testing positive with the coronavirus during a school day to remain on campus. Unvaccinated students who are in close contact with a positive case while at school are not required to go home and quarantine as long as both were seen wearing their masks properly. The exposed unvaccinated student is required to wear their mask indoors and outdoors except when eating or drinking. They also must practice social distancing whenever their mask is off.
However, the modified quarantine option is only available to students who opt in for testing. Students with a positive COVID test must quarantine for 10 days, regardless of vaccination.
“This aligns with our priority to keep students in school,” said Superintendent Wendy Sinnette. “This will be a heavy lift for our administrative team and their staffs, but they all agree and join me in the profound desire to keep kids in school and we think we can do so with fidelity and safely.”
The Governing Board unanimously approved the recommendation from district staff and also voted in favor of changing the testing timeline for students and employees in close contact with positive cases. L.A. Public Health advised schools to have close contacts test between three to six days after exposure to improve the efficacy of the results.
Board member Dan Jeffries asked Sinnette if it was possible to expand rapid testing provided to athletes for competition to students in extracurricular activities such as choir, and district staff replied that they are already working on it.
In anticipation of the holidays, Sinnette asked families to look at the recommendations and requirements from public health officials regarding domestic and international travel.
According to the LCSUD COVID-19 dashboard, 20 students and eight employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. Sinnette assured that there has not been any transmission of COVID-19 on campuses and that each infection occurred off site.
Stakeholders lauded the district for its staggered approach to the safety protocols.
“I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for the district following the science and adapting the protocols as things change and doing a tremendous job of keeping our kids in school,” Jacob Berlin told the board.
Cases have dropped dramatically throughout L.A. County, especially in schools. Health officials said that positive cases among students peaked with nearly 2,800 in the third week of August and 11,000 close contacts. Last week, there were 540 students who tested positive and nearly 2,800 close contacts.
“These downward trends are the consequence of the hard work of school administrators, teachers and staff to implement vaccinations, masking, student cohorting, seating charts and other preventative strategies, adding new layers of quality improvement to their workdays at everyone’s great effort,” L.A. County Public Health said in a statement.