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LA County Schools Can Now Apply For Waivers To Reopen Schools For Youngest Kids

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at Tuesday's meeting to open up the process for schools to apply for waivers to resume in-person instruction.

While public health conditions prohibit blanket school reopenings across the county, the waivers will allow for an intentionally slow rollout of school reopenings for Los Angeles' youngest learners. The state's waiver process allows for waivers up to sixth grade, but for now, L.A. County's approach is limited to students in transitional kindergarten up to second grade.

The motion, introduced by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn, limits the number of waivers that public health officials can grant to 30 per week.

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The waivers are supposed to be evenly distributed across the five supervisorial districts, and public health officials are supposed to prioritize applications from schools serving high populations of low-income students who qualify for free and reduced price meals.

Los Angeles Public Health director Barbara Ferrer told the board that letters of support from parents, teachers, and staff will be required as part of the waiver application. (The state waiver guidelines vaguely require "consultation" with these groups).

Los Angeles County public health officials will be required to provide bi-weekly updates to the board about the application process and compliance with the rules at schools that reopen with the waivers.

That is in contrast to neighboring Orange County, which started accepting waiver applications in August and continued granting them until the county was allowed to reopen any K-12 school without waivers on September 22. Earlier this month, Orange County Health Care Agency director Clayton Chau said public health officials would not be conducting "on site reviews" to check for compliance with proposed safety plans and county mandates. Later, he added that O.C. officials would depend on parents and the public to let them know if schools were not complying.

Schools across Los Angeles County already have permission to reopen for no more than 10% of their enrollment at a time, in order to serve small groups of students in need of "specialized support and services."

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Ferrer told the board on Tuesday that around 500 schools have notified the county of their intent to do so.


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