"Reopening schools too soon and without good safety protocols puts far too many people at risk, from teachers and school staff to children and their parents."
- Los Angeles Times
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Los Angeles and increase the strain on our healthcare system, the return of students to LAUSD classrooms seems further away than ever. However, at some point schools will reopen. When they do, strict safety measures are going to have to be put in place to ensure student safety. This will include smaller class sizes and the ability to test and institute contact tracing.
For public schools whose campuses are co-located with charter schools under Prop-39, it will be more difficult to enact these safety procedures. Since courts have allowed the charter school to take possession of any area that does not have a teacher assigned to it, there is little space left for the public school to spread students out and enforce social distancing. Also, since there are two different management teams on campus, the free flow of information through the campus could be compromised, particularly in cases where there is animosity between the two schools. This will hamper efforts to ensure that students are sent home to quarantine after coming in contact with someone who is suspected of being ill with the virus.
Since it would be unfair to remove students from a campus they are currently attending, the district has no other option than to retain current Prop-39 agreements. However, in situations where the co-located school has not yet started operations, like the Citizens of the World school that is expanding into the San Fernando Valley, pausing a co-location will not cause any harm to existing students as they have none.
If the California Charter School Association (CCSA) really cared about the welfare of children, it would support efforts to pause new co-locations. Instead, this trade group continues to play politics with the issue and spreads fear through their communities by falsely claiming that a proposed moratorium would kick charter students off of their campuses.
Even with a pro-public school majority, the LAUSD board has yet to take the necessary action to protect the students of Shirley Avenue and other schools that are slated to receive Prop-39 co-locations. The board's lack of action is blamed on the fear of being dragged into court by the powerful charter school lobby. It is time to set that fear aside and display the leadership that is needed to protect our children during this pandemic.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." Links to his blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.