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Letters to the Editor: Omicron is wiping out LAUSD staff, says a substitute teacher

A masked woman leans in through car window.
LAUSD Board President Kelly Gonez distributes in-home COVID test kits provided by Los Angeles Unified School District at Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School on Jan. 7.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Reading about the astonishingly high 13.5% test positivity rate for coronavirusamong Los Angeles Unified School District students and staff, I was struck by how easy it felt to see this information as just another number — frightening yet unlikely to affect our daily lives.

However, as an LAUSD substitute who has worked consistently throughout this pandemic, these numbers paint a tangibly grim picture to me.

With such a significant portion of teachers unable to work due to positive coronavirus tests, who exactly is teaching the students as schools reopen after winter break? Is it me, an uncredentialed substitute with a theater arts degree filling the role of a tenured high school English teacher? Or are other teachers being asked to rotate in during their designated prep periods, as they have often been asked to do this past year? And if so, will there even be enough teachers present to cover for the remarkable volume of absences?

The district is aware of the risks of in-person learning during the pandemic and has successfully implemented protocols that mitigate those risks. But I believe that now the discussion of safety must include the question of how to return to class after winter break without proper staff at schools.

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Cordelia Watson, Van Nuys

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To the editor: The first paragraph in your article on rapid tests arriving late at public schools references a mother whose daughter tested positive for coronavirus a few days after her Burbank school resumed from winter break. Blame for this is placed squarely on the governor for the delay in delivering tests over the holidays.

It is clear, however, that the blame should be shared by Burbank school board, which held an emergency meeting on Jan. 2 to decide whether it should postpone reopening by one week. It opted to open schools as scheduled on Jan. 3.

Clearly, that one-week delay would have benefited many children and staff members. Unfortunately, the media and many politicians have treated this as a political issue rather than one of public health, and any delay in opening schools or any mention of distance learning is deemed a sacrilege.

This, despite the increasing evidence of the long-terms effects of COVID, despite the desperate situation of many hospitals and despite the illness and staffing shortages in the schools that have opened.

We need to focus on the realities of this public health crisis and make well-informed decisions based on the needs of those who attend and staff our schools.

Lori Davies, Brea


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