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The Price Tag For LAUSD's COVID-19 Testing Has Been A Lot Higher Than Expected

Two young men wearing medical masks stand behind a table with documents, small boxes, and what look like hand sanitizer bottles. A woman at the table looks down at a document in her hand.
COVID tests being distributed at Daniel Webster Middle School in Mar Vista.
(Suzanne Levy
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This year, the L.A. Unified School District ordered all students and staff to take COVID-19 tests each week — and the costs of this regimen are ballooning fast.

LAUSD projects spending more than $527 million on testing and contact tracing before the end of the school year, according to a briefing officials delivered to school board members Tuesday afternoon. That’s more than four times the amount LAUSD expected to spend on testing last June.

The district has administered between 1-2 million tests each month this school year — around three times the number of tests they expected to conduct last June.

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It’s unlikely this cost overrun represents a financial problem for the district. District officials expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse LAUSD for a substantial portion — if not all — of that cost.

Still, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho signaled LAUSD may soon be able to revisit its testing policy, which requires weekly negative tests regardless of symptoms or vaccination status. He noted positivity rates on the district’s tests have been trending downward — and almost all staff members are vaccinated.

“Is it still necessary to test,” he wondered Tuesday, “at the frequency and intensity we have been testing, given the extreme cost?”

The superintendent said no change will be made without input from medical experts.

What questions do you have about K-12 education in Southern California?
Kyle Stokes reports on the public education system — and the societal forces, parental choices and political decisions that determine which students get access to a “good” school (and how we define a “good school”).