Los Angeles and San Diego, two of the largest school districts in California, have decided to implement online-only instruction in the fall term to protect students and staff from COVID-19, as Southern California grapples with a rise in cases.
In a joint announcement, the Los Angeles Unified school district, along with the San Diego Unified school district, said online instruction will begin for students in mid-August, but added that administrators will “continue planning for a return to in-person learning during the 2020-21 academic year, as soon as public health conditions allow.”
The districts called many of the public health guidelines on reopening “vague and contradictory” and claimed that the rising number of COVID-19 cases make reopening a risky proposition.
The two districts asserted that “one fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.”
According to the California Department of Public Health, California’s 7-day average of new cases is 8,664. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered all indoor businesses such as bars, restaurants and movie theaters to be closed across the state.
Los Angeles Unified is the second-largest school district in the United States, with more than 700,000 students. San Diego Unified has more than 100,000 students.
The move is likely to draw the ire of the Trump administration, with President Trump demanding schools reopen in the fall. Trump has suggested that Democrats have pushed the schools to close in order to hurt his reelection chances, and has threatened to slash federal funding for schools that do not reopen later this year.
On Sunday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended Trump’s push to reopen in interviews with CNN and Fox News, claiming that children are at a lower risk of contracting COVID-19. DeVos has specifically singled out public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, for only moving towards in-class instruction for only two days a week amid the pandemic, criticizing the plan for being insufficient.
“COVID hits all of us, and the guidelines for 6 feet social distancing simply mean that you can’t put every kid back in a school with the existing square footage footprint. It’s just that simple,” Fairfax County superintendent Scott Brabrand told CNN in response to DeVos.