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LAUSD Releases Contract With Start-Up Lab Company Behind Its COVID-19 Testing Program

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The Los Angeles Unified School District made a big national splash this summer when it announced an ambitious plan to regularly test all students and staff for COVID-19.

But we’ve known relatively little about LAUSD’s contract with the start-up lab company that’s providing and processing the coronavirus test kits — at least, until now.

On Wednesday afternoon, the LAUSD officials publicly released full terms of its deal with SummerBio in response to requests from the L.A. Times, KPCC/LAist and others. District officials also released a memo shedding even more light on the deal. Here’s what we learned:

  • We now know what the deal is worth to SummerBio: $51.3 million to deliver 100,000 tests per week to LAUSD through June 2021.
  • We knew generally that LAUSD wouldn’t pay if SummerBio failed to process the tests in a timely fashion, but we now know exactly how efficient the lab must be: by 5 a.m., SummerBio must report the results of at least 80% of the previous day’s tests in order to get paid for that day’s work.
  • The contract gives LAUSD an option to double the capacity of the testing program to 200,000 tests per week. In an interview, Beutner indicated the district would exercise this option if campuses reopened. Should this happen, the potential costs to LAUSD would rise to about $80.9 million, according to the district memo.

  • LAUSD took bids from 22 companies — and the district says SummerBio was the cheapest by far. A group that included outside attorneys, consultants and researchers evaluated the bids. While LAUSD’s memo doesn’t specify what each company would’ve charged, it does say the next-lowest competitor would’ve charged $192.3 million — nearly four times as much as SummerBio.

LAUSD officials launched this program using special emergency powers the school board unanimously approved in March; powers that let Beutner make fast-track deals to help LAUSD respond to the coronavirus crisis.

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I’ve been reporting a story about those emergency powers and learned details about the SummerBio contract in the course of that reporting. Stick with us — I’ll have that story out soon.

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