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News Update

LA Unified to unroll ambitious Covid-19 testing for all students and staff

Putting flesh on a strategy he outlined several months ago, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner has unveiled a plan that eventually will test the approximately 600,000 students and 75,000 staff members in the district for Covid-19.

The proposed plan, to be conducted in collaboration with several universities, private companies and insurers, and testing labs, represents the most ambitious plan proposed by any school district in the nation.

Described the testing plan in an op-ed piece published Sunday evening in the Los Angeles Times, Beutner said “an effort like this is not simple and the scale is daunting.” But, he said, if it works “it can be a model for the school districts and communities across the country.”

The district will open on Monday via distance learning, so the vast majority of students and staff will not be in school. Under current state guidelines, LA Unified is barred for the foreseeable future from providing in-school instruction. But a major goal of the plan is to prepare for bringing students and staff safely back to school when health conditions improve in the county.

The testing initiative will begin with staff who are currently in schools and children participating in child care programs offered by the district.

Those tested may also include classified staff, such as those making meals in cafeterias, school counselors and school administrators working either in schools or in district headquarters.

Beutner said testing would also be provided to family members of students and staff who test positive for virus, or show symptoms of the disease.

UCLA, Stanford and Johns Hopkins University will participate in overseeing the testing and contact tracing program. Microsoft will provide an application to manage the program and share information. Testing labs and health insurers Anthem Blue Cross and HealthNet will also “share their data to provide a more robust overall picture of how the novel coronavirus affects different communities.”

According to the New York Times, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will also be involved, and help coordinate the multiple agencies involved in the ambitious program.

Beutner said the plan would cost about $300 per student over the course of the year. “But this is really about something that can’t be measured in dollars and cents,” he wrote in the op-ed piece. “It’s about creating opportunity for children. A good education is the path out of poverty for many students and the promise of a better future for all of them.”