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L.A. Unified to open 25 community vaccination clinics as part of school reopenings

L.A. Unified to open 25 community vaccination clinics as
part of school reopenings 1

The Los Angeles school district plans to open 25 community vaccination centers, starting with three this week, an effort to reach families through their local schools — trusted places of daily interaction, Supt. Austin Beutner said Monday.

The first two clinics are set to open Tuesday at Washington Preparatory Senior High School in South Los Angeles and Lincoln Senior High School in East Los Angeles. The district is collaborating with St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, which will provide the doses of vaccine and the clinical staff to administer the inoculations. L.A. Unified will oversee community outreach and provide operational support.

A third vaccination center is scheduled to open Friday at Gage Middle School in Huntington Park, in partnership with Northeast Community Clinics.

For some time, the limited vaccine supply has made securing appointments difficult. But the increasing supply of doses and rapid expansion of vaccine eligibility are expected to change the picture. There have also been persistent problems in reaching low-income Latino and Black communities — where providing protection from COVID-19 is especially critical to halting the pandemic, preventing serious illness and saving lives.

“Barriers still remain for many to receive a vaccination — access to technology, the lack of time or the inability to navigate the online vaccine lottery to find an appointment or the lack of access to transportation to a distant vaccination site,” Beutner said in remarks prepared for his weekly Monday broadcast. “School-based vaccination efforts — in the neighborhood by trusted partners — can help solve these issues. Schools are in regular contact with the families they serve and are a trusted part of the community.”

Health authorities are anxious to extend vaccination efforts to head off a potential so-called fourth wave of infection — fueled by virus variants. Vaccines became officially available to those 50 and older on April 1. All people 16 and older will be eligible on April 15.

Over the past year, Beutner has pursued an aggressive public health agenda, launching a district-run coronavirus-testing operation and installing near-hospital-grade air-filtration systems, among other upgrades.

A vaccination center for school-district employees opened last month at the Rams’ SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. As a condition of returning to campus, the Los Angeles teachers union had demanded that its members have the opportunity to achieve maximum immunity, which the district agreed to, delaying the reopening timetable.

The district-managed employee vaccinations allowed LAUSD officials to tabulate which employees had received vaccines and were ready to return to work. The district also prioritized workers necessary to reopen elementary schools. These campuses will be the first to welcome back students, reopening on a staggered basis starting the week of April 12.

The district’s coronavirus testing program and the extensive safety measures are expected to serve as confidence-building measures for parents weighing whether to send their children back to campus.

“This testing program is an important part of each school’s COVID safety plan,” Beutner said. “Every student and staff member on a school campus will be tested each week.”

He added: “Please make sure your child gets COVID tested sometime this week if their school is reopening the week of April 12th.”

The district has testing sites at various locations across the nation’s second-largest school system.

So far, fewer than half of the district’s families have indicated they will send their children back to campuses. Many of the students not returning are in middle or high school. In secondary school, students will not receive in-person instruction but will continue with their online learning schedule from one classroom. Many have criticized the offering as “Zoom-in-a-classroom.”

The district elected to continue online instruction at middle and high school campuses to limit interaction among students as they moved from class to class, and also to retain the current master schedule at this late date in the school year. Such cautious measures are not required by health authorities — provided that other safety measures are strictly followed, such as mask wearing and social distancing. While L.A. Unified is stressing the on-campus restrictions on class size and student movement, district sports teams will be allowed to practice after school and compete with teams from other schools.

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