Students in the Long Beach school district, the fourth largest system in California, will not be returning to campus until at least March 1, as the dangerous coronavirus surge continues to rage through the region.
The district, with about 72,000 students and 12,000 employees, had planned to start in-person instruction in January. But with the unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases, it is unlikely that Los Angeles County will meet the threshold needed to reopen schools by then, officials said.
The announcement comes a week after the Los Angeles Unified School District shut down all on-campus services due to the rise in cases. L.A. Unified has not yet announced plans for January.
This week, the county announced it has fewer than 100 ICU beds available and more than 4,400 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a dire sign.
“We will continue to monitor all state and local health data. The moment that we’re able to reopen schools, we’re ready to do so,” Long Beach Supt. Jill Baker said in a video message. “We have the protective equipment that’s needed. We have the necessary safety protocols in place. Our facilities are well prepared.”
If reopening is not possible on March 1, Baker said, the next possible date would be April 12, after spring break.
The school district will continue to provide childcare for essential workers and families enrolled in childcare programs between January and March and continue to assess students for support services, said Chris Lund, an assistant superintendent for Long Beach Unified. He added that the district will also consider bringing students in transitional kindergarten through second grade back to school on a waiver, which other school districts have used to bring back small groups of younger students.
“These are not the messages that we want to send,” Baker said of the announcement. “But this situation is temporary, and we look forward to welcoming you back as soon as we’re allowed to do so.”