No school opening waivers will be considered, L.A. County says, citing high COVID-19 rates

A sign states, "We miss our Short Avenue Families," at the closed Short Avenue Elementary School in Mar Vista.
Short Avenue Elementary School in Mar Vista and others around Los Angeles remain closed due to the coronavirus crisis.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The L.A. County Department of Public Health said Tuesday that it would not consider any applications for waivers enabling elementary schools to reopen, citing high local COVID-19 case rates.

The decision comes one day after the California Department of Public Health announced new guidelines for granting school reopening waivers, indicating that counties with case rates above 200 per 100,000 residents should not consider applications.

The case rate in L.A. County is currently 355 per 100,000 residents.

“We know that to many families, this is a disappointing announcement, but it’s based on the existing science and data that is guiding all of our decision-making. We need to ensure the health and safety of our children, school teachers and staff and all of their families,” the department said in a statement.


It added that the decision would be reconsidered once the case rate falls to the levels recommended by the state.

Teachers, staff and administrators will still be allowed to return to school buildings as long as adults follow safety protocols, including physical distancing and infection control measures, such as wearing face coverings.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month that neither public nor private schools may reopen in counties where the coronavirus continues to spread. He noted that elementary schools, whose young students have difficulties with online-only learning, could seek an exception through a waiver process overseen by local health departments.

The L.A. County health department subsequently said it would soon begin accepting applications for waivers from district superintendents and private school directors seeking to reopen in person for students in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade.

It said it would require letters of support from teachers unions, parent groups and community-based organizations, sparking criticism that private and parochial schools without unionized labor would have an advantage in the process.