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LAUSD Will Scale Back COVID-19 Testing, ‘Daily Pass’ Health Checks When New School Year Starts

 A student places a nasal swab from a COVID-19 test into a tube at an L.A. Unified School District screening site at San Fernando Middle School in March 2021.
A student places a nasal swab from a COVID-19 test into a tube at an L.A. Unified School District screening site at San Fernando Middle School in March 2021.
(Kyle Stokes
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When a new school year begins in two weeks, students at Los Angeles Unified schools will no longer need to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing — at least as long as they’re symptom-free — or complete an online health check form every day.

LAUSD administrators made those policy changes official on Tuesday, marking another downshift in the safety measures that have been central to the school district’s COVID-19 protocols since the pandemic’s onset.

Instead of on-campus PCR testing, district schools will give out antigen tests and urge students to take them at home before returning to class on Aug. 15. The district deployed these rapid-result tests in similar fashion after holiday breaks last school year.

The district memo says that tests “should be used within 48 hours prior to entering campus for the first day of school.” The district will also distribute another round of antigen tests at the end of the first week of school.

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Scaling Back The Testing Program

The policy shift drastically scales back the testing effort that, at its outset, accounted for the lion’s share of all COVID-19 tests conducted in L.A. County. During the 2021-22 school year, the district tested all staff and students weekly for the virus, regardless of whether they had symptoms.

All this testing added up: LAUSD administered between 1-2 million tests each month — roughly three times the number of tests they’d anticipated — at an estimated price tag of more than $500 million annually. Administrators expect federal reimbursements to cover most (if not all) of these costs, they’ve also signaled that it might be difficult to justify such a massive effort going forward.

This year, “only those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or who have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive, will be required to test,” according to a district FAQ. “All testing will be conducted with take-home rapid antigen tests, which are available for students and employees at your school or worksite.”

Taking The ‘Daily’ Out Of Daily Pass

The 2021 creation of the testing program also inspired the launch of LAUSD’s Daily Pass portal, an online system for tracking the weekly results — and ensuring positive cases didn’t wind up entering campuses anyway.

This year, LAUSD is largely shelving the “daily” part of Daily Pass.

Students will no longer need to fill out a form every day attesting they’ve been symptom-free in order to gain admission to campus. The portal will remain live to collect antigen test results and vaccination records, “monitor positive cases and to notify close contacts of a person who has tests positive,” the district’s statement said.

LAUSD has backed away — at least for now — from a plan to require all eligible students to get vaccinated for COVID-19. District officials have paused enforcement of the requirement until at least July 2023, though a recent ruling by an L.A. Superior Court judge has cast doubt over whether the vaccination policy will ever take effect.

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Though the district’s FAQ indicates the portal will continue to pose “daily health screening questions,”LAUSD’s tweet also said that “students and employees do not need to generate a Daily Pass QR code to enter school campuses.”

LAUSD amplified state and county officials’ “strong recommendation” that students wear masks on campus — but face coverings will not be required on campus.

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”).