Lisa Marie Cannon on Flicker.com
The Los Angeles Unified School District has launched a COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing program for all 1,386 Los Angeles Unified schools. Superintendent Austin Beutner expressed in his briefing on Monday morning the importance of how essential regular testing and contact tracing is for the reopening of all schools.
Students through out LA County are currently still receiving an education through remote learning, however, with a plan set in motion to reopen school campuses, LAUSD announced on Sept. 14 that all students and staff will require a negative COVID-19 test for admission.
With weekly updates provided by the School District of Los Angeles, many parents still have concerns regarding how transparent the district is being with the information that will be shared to the public.
The testing and tracing program by the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the only program offered in the whole nation, includes a website in which parents and the community have access to a report card with all current positive cases. The report card itself will not reveal the identity of a student or teacher who has tested positive or been in contact with someone. However, the results will be broken down by the number of cases between schools, grades, and even individual groups in a specific classroom.
Kathie Nguyen, a soon to be mother of two expressed how she would not feel comfortable with results being made available to the general public. “I wouldn’t like anything to be publicized, negative or positive. People will talk, parents do and they’re going to know who is positive,” said Nguyen. “If they are going to test my child I should be present and results should only be given to me. If the school wants to know they can know, but they shouldn’t put my child’s information out there.”
Like Nguyen many parents worry about their children being tested outside of their presence. Despite how well the program is portrayed it seems like some families just don’t agree that it’s the appropriate thing to be done at a school.
With so much uncertainty and so many factors that need to be considered when dealing with the safety and wellbeing of a student, it is easy to understand the concerns that are coming from a parent’s perspective, especially when the only information provided has been that it will be done at schools.
But despite the issues that parents have with how the testing and tracing program will roll out, there are parents who are appreciating the efforts that the LAUSD is making to provide a safer school environment for all its students and staff.
Rashid Johnson, a school leader in New York City, supported how the Beutner was urgently executing a testing and tracing plan for all students and teachers. “The mayor and chancellor here in NYC, the largest school system in the country, are choosing not to test and trace all students and teachers,” said Johnson. “I wish we had a responsible leader like your guys superintendent.”
Johnson believes that all schools should have the same call to action as LAUSD because the number one thing all educators must do is keep all kids safe.
As well as working in education, Johnson is also a parent. He was asked if he wasn’t involved in the school community and his child was the one being tested, would he feel differently towards the program? Johnson replied, “I think my perspective as a parent and educator are universal. As a school leader my vision has always been the safety, learning and happiness for kids and grown-ups. At its core, that’s what school and life should be about.”
With the testing and tracing program in its second week after a successful trial phase, Superintendent Beutner shared through the LAUSD website that extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while school-based testing and contact-tracing efforts are unprecedented, they are necessary and appropriate.
Ultimately the goal of the LA Unified School District is to be able to provide an education deemed safe for all students and staff. “This program will provide the foundation for students and teachers to return to school in the safest possible manner, and it will help keep students in school because we can identify and isolate cases before more people are exposed to the virus,” said Beutner.
There is no denying that the testing and contact tracing program won’t be welcomed by all parents and students. For families who simply don’t agree with the program, they will be allowed the option to have their children continue schooling online.