By Chad Winthrop
The nation’s second-largest public school system will provide COVID-19 tests and contact tracing for all Los Angeles Unified staff, students and their families.
On August 17 the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education members voiced support for the launch of a program that will provide regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to all school staff, students and their families at LAUSD Schools.
“As much as we have worked to improve distance learning since the school district transitioned overnight in March, we know there is no replacement for in-person school and we’re doing everything we can to get kids back safely,” said Board Member Nick Melvoin who reprsaents the Westside. “That is not possible without a comprehensive system of testing and contact tracing. As we’ve done with food for the community and technology, LA Unified is stepping up to fill voids and put this system in place. “
As part of this plan, research will commence studying the impact and effects of reopening and this data will be available to the general public.
The testing and contact tracing program and its corresponding research are a groundbreaking collaboration between Los Angeles Unified School District and leading scientists from the University California Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford University and the Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft, testing experts, and healthcare companies Anthem Blue Cross and Health Net. Together, they will be part of a task force co-chaired by Beutner and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area. This program will also provide significant education benefits for students by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there. We hope this effort also will provide learnings which can benefit other school systems and communities across the nation as we all combat this pandemic.”
According to Beutner, the testing will cost about $300 per student, at least $240 million in total.
While the decision about the return of students to schools is some time away, this testing and contact tracing program allows a system to be built and tested and also provides a base of knowledge to help prepare for an eventual return to school campuses, LAUSD says.
“COVID-19 has forced our school district to face new and unanticipated challenges,” Board Member Kelly Gonez said. “Our testing and tracing program will be a critical part of our work to ensure the safety of our students and staff. It will allow us to respond quickly to any infections and slow the spread. District-led COVID testing is an unprecedented step, but these are unprecedented times.”