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Elementary School Reopenings in Santa Monica Delayed by Teacher Vaccine Demand
By Jorge Casuso
February 16, 2021 -- While County Health officials gave the go-ahead Tuesday to begin reopening elementary schools, Santa Monica will lag behind given a vaccine demand made by the local teachers union.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District announced Tuesday it had reached a tentative agreement with the teachers union to reopen schools. The agreement has two parts.
The first -- that Los Angeles County records COVID-19 infection levels of 25/100,000 or fewer for five consecutive days before elementary schools can open -- has been reached.
"We are informing Los Angeles County schools tonight via an emailed letter that we expect to announce we have reached this threshold effective Tuesday, February 16," County Health officials announced Tuesday.
"This encouraging news means that dozens of elementary schools will be permitted to reopen for in-class instruction for students grades TK-6 as early as this week."
That won't be the case for Santa Monica and Malibu elementary schools. Under the tentative agreement's second part, "vaccines must be available to teachers and campus staff for a period of 15 days prior to students returning," said Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati.
For grades 7 through 12, reopening will not be permitted by the County until the case rate drops below 7 per 100,000 people.
So far, there has been little spread of the coronavirus in schools that have reopened in Los Angeles County, Health officials said.
"Outbreaks in schools that re-opened were relatively rare as the protocols in place prevented significant transmission at school sites," County Health officials said Tuesday.
Since September 1, there have been a total of 86 outbreaks at K-12 school sites in LA County, officials said. Of those, 66 involved fewer than 6 cases, with most involving 3 or 4 cases.
Like SMMUSD, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is not expected to begin reopening classes until teachers are vaccinated.
When Santa Monica and Malibu public schools reopen, they will do so following the Distance Learning Plus (DL+) model approved by the School Board on December 17.
DL+ "is a continuation of how students have been receiving their instruction this fall, with a 'Plus' being the addition of some in-person activities," District officials said in December.
According to a survey conducted by the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA) in November nearly 76 percent of the 407 teachers who responded said they preferred the DL+ model.
About 92 percent said the District should have a COVID testing program for students and staff before any return to campus for in-person instruction.
Vaccinations had not yet been rolled out when the survey was taken.
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