HomePublicationLa CañadaLCUSD’s COVID Precautions Pay Off

LCUSD’s COVID Precautions Pay Off

First published in the Jan. 13 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

One week removed from having to postpone the return to in-person instruction following the winter break due to a concerning number of COVID-19 positive cases, the La Cañada Unified School District had better news for stakeholders during the Governing Board meeting on Tuesday.
The precautions taken worked, with the positivity rate dropping from 10% last week to 1.8% on Monday. After having nearly 300 students and staff test positive for the coronavirus at testing sites on Jan. 3 and 4, the district distributed at-home COVID-19 test kits provided by Los Angeles County to families and staff and asked them to test on Sunday and submit the results by the evening.
Out of the 3,613 test results received on Sunday, only 66 were positive, validating LCUSD’s cautious approach to returning to campus amid a coronavirus surge sparked by the more transmissible Omicron variant and holiday gatherings.
“When we reset and had everybody test, we created a safer environment, screening out positives that would have been part of the contact tracing and general population and increased infection,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette told the school board on Tuesday.
Packaging more than 10,000 home test kits for distribution was no easy feat for a small district like La Cañada, but it fortunately had help from community members and parents.
“A band of volunteers worked tirelessly through the tedium of bagging swabs, serums, instructions — the whole kit — into individual baggies,” a thankful Sinnette said. “They were here in this boardroom and outdoors early in the morning and late evenings all with the spirit of giving, volunteerism and grace.”
In an effort to keep coronavirus transmission low in the community and campuses open, Sinnette asked that the Governing Board approve mandatory weekly testing through Feb. 6. The panel unanimously agreed to Sinnette’s request but added that they revisit the topic should numbers begin to subside throughout the county.
“The bottom line is we need to do everything that we possibly can to keep our teachers healthy,” President Dan Jeffries said. “We need our teachers healthy to keep our classrooms open. If our teachers aren’t healthy, we can’t keep the classrooms open. And then, in order to keep the classrooms open, we need to keep our kids healthy to be able to be in those classrooms, and as we’ve said many times, that is the goal of our district.”
Families are required to use the at-home kits on Sunday and submit results to the district by 9 p.m. Each week, parents can anticipate another batch of tests to be distributed.
In accordance with the updated health and safety protocols from the L.A. County Department of Public Health, any student who tests positive is required to be quarantined for five days and can return to campus if they are without symptoms and can provide a negative test result. Upon returning, the student is also required to wear a medical-grade mask indoors and outdoors unless they are eating or drinking.
Any close contacts exposed to an individual who was infected will be tested at school sites using the same kits distributed to families.
“We’ve seen that contact tracing has been changed by [L.A. County] Public Health. It’s been temporarily suspended,” Sinnette said. “So that’s why we’re testing at school to stay in school by seating chart at the secondary level [and] by classroom at the elementary level. We’ve seen that we’ve been managing pretty well thanks to our community and thanks to everyone’s efforts and cooperation.”
Board member Joe Radabaugh, who has been a proponent of giving families the choice when it comes to testing and vaccination, supported the district’s strategy returning from the holiday break.
“I know not everybody likes the testing,” he said. “We have a lot of folks who were trying to be protective of the opt-out strategy, but the opt-out was for a different purpose at that time. We’re in a different ballgame and everybody is being asked to participate in this to keep the whole community safe and our kids in school.”
The district is also working to acquire more medical-grade masks that can be distributed to students who request them. Employees must wear N95 and KN95 masks and it is recommended — though not required — that students also wear them under the county’s revised health and safety protocols. La Cañada Unified hopes to be able to distribute masks to interested families.
“We do know there is a need for almost daily replacement,” Sinnette said. “The demand will be high and we do expect a shipment. We would like to provide them, but we can’t over-promise at this point.”
Sinnette reiterated that one of the best tools to combat COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated, and she encouraged eligible individuals to visit one of two upcoming clinics hosted by the district. The first will be held at La Cañada High School this Saturday in partnership with Wealth By Health. LCUSD is working with the Verdugo Pharmacy of Alhambra to have another clinic that is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 21.
“We are confident we can use the tools in our tool kit to remain open for in person instruction,” Sinnette said.


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