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New updates to COVID-19 restrictions has led to more questions when it comes to reopening schools. Recently it was announced that theme parks and outdoor entertainment venues can reopen at limited capacity. Previously, large theme parks like Disneyland could only reopen once they reached the yellow tier, and having fans at outdoor sporting events could only happen in the orange tier. But now the new updates allow theme parks like Disneyland to reopen in the red tier or below and outdoor sporting events can have fans at 20% capacity starting in the red tier.
Overall, the guidance promoted by Newsom and the legislature over the past few months have made it harder for schools to reopen and easier for sports stadiums to have fans.
On Tuesday, LAUSD and UTLA reached an agreement on reopening, with some new details on the potential reopening of LAUSD schools. Elementary schools are expected to reopen in mid-April and middle schools and high schools are expected to reopen in late April. All students would also have to be tested weekly and tested before returning to campus, according to Fox 11.
Tentatively, elementary schools can only operate in a hybrid model, attending five days a week either in morning or afternoon sessions. Secondary schools, according to the Los Angeles Times, “would attend two-days a week on a staggered schedule. But instead of moving from class to class, they would remain in their advisory classroom — similar to a homeroom base — for the full day. From their advisory class, students would carry out distance learning essentially as they are doing now.”
So basically, middle and high school students are doing study hall at the school two days a week.
All of this comes as the California Department of Public Health’s released their updated Blueprint for a Safer Economy. With this new update, fifty-seven out of fifty-eight counties have reached Newsom’s original and now outdated K-6 school reopening threshold. Six new counties have moved to the red tier, including Alameda, Solano, and Santa Cruz counties. Eleven counties might be moving to the red tier next week, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. But it could be as early as this weekend, according to Newsom on Wednesday, saying that the tiers could be adjusted based on new vaccinations in low-income communities.
Compared to where California was two months ago is huge. Cases today are a tenth of the number of the number of daily cases on January 14.
With this new guidance and the expected change to red tier for Los Angeles County, it is very likely that a LAUSD middle or high school student could attend opening day at Dodger Stadium, go to Disneyland, watch the new Godzilla vs. Kong movie in a movie theater, enjoy a burger inside an In-N-Out restaurant, and work out in an indoor gym, all before being able to step foot in the classroom for an actual class.
As California is slowly opening up, and with cases at one of the lowest points of the pandemic, parents should be asking whether the order of reopening the economy and schools makes any sense.
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Brandon Ristoff is a policy analyst for the California Policy Center.