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Culver City Unified Cancels Classes Amid Omicron Surge

A student with his back to the camera wears a dark blue t-shirt and a backpack with anime characters.
(Mariana Dale
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The Culver City Unified School District is canceling classes for three days next week, becoming the latest L.A.-area school district to scramble its calendar in response to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

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Culver City Unified Cancels Classes Amid Omicron Surge

Culver City Unified schools will be closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Jan. 19-21. The district had already planned for a student-free day on Tuesday, Jan. 18, following observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

In an email to parents Friday, Culver City Unified officials cited “the recent increase in COVID-19 positive cases and the ongoing rapid spread of the Omicron variant” as reasons for the cancellation. The message said the three postponed days of class “will be made up at a date to be determined later.”

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As of Friday, a district dashboard showed 463 active confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Culver City Unified students and 35 active cases among staff. (State figures show the district enrolls some 7,000 students.)

Superintendent Quoc Tran said those active cases account for more than three-quarters of the cases the district has detected since the school year began — and despite what he characterized as spotty testing coming out of winter break, and logistical problems with processing tests during the first week of January.

Tran said the district needed time to "reset." He said the district plans to re-test all students in the week off. Before returning to campus on Monday, Jan. 24, they will need to submit a negative test result.

"The cases are alarming. And now we are into the second week and the cases are still rising," Tran said. "So it is an additional reset to see if we can stay ahead of the curve before it flattens us."

Stricter Rules

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This year, California schools have little of the scheduling flexibility they had earlier in the pandemic.

COVID-19 alone is not considered sufficient grounds for canceling days of school without making them up later — though a serious staff shortage might be. State law also requires schools to jump through major hoops to switch back to remote instruction, making a temporary return to Zoom classes “problematic,” according to a brief from School Services of California.

Earlier this month, Montebello Unified and La Cañada Unified delayed students’ return from winter break, citing the omicron surge.

This week, the region’s largest district, Los Angeles Unified, reported an average attendance rate of 66.8% during its first week back from winter break.

Last summer, Culver City Unified made national headlines when it became what was believed to be the first school district in the United States to require students 12 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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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”).