US COVID-19: LA and San Diego pupils will not return to classroom

California’s two largest public school districts will resume online-only learning when their terms begin in August.

The Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts announced plans on Monday to resume instruction in August with online teaching only, citing “skyrocketing” coronavirus infection rates in the state of California during the past few weeks.

Los Angeles and San Diego rank as the two largest public school districts in California, with about 706,000 students and 88,000 employees combined on more than 1,500 campuses overall. Los Angeles is the second-largest school district in the United States.

The two districts closed their schools and shifted to online instruction in mid-March as the coronavirus outbreak was spreading in California, days before Governor Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home orders and mandatory workplace closures.

In Monday’s joint announcement, the Los Angeles school district said it will resume online instruction for the new academic year on August 18, and San Diego will follow suit on August 31.

Both districts said they would continue planning for a return to in-classroom lessons during the upcoming 2020-21 academic year, as soon as public health conditions allow.

The joint statement said that much of prevailing scientific research and public health guidelines regarding the coronavirus pandemic are “vague and contradictory”. It also pointed to the countries that have safely reopened their schools, saying they have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available.

“California has neither,” the statement said, adding, “The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.”

The announcement came as President Donald Trump, speaking at the White House on Monday, said “schools should be opened”. He and his eduction secretary Betsy DeVos have been pushing for full school reopenings despite record surges of the virus. 

Newsom on Monday also ordered a massive retrenchment of the state’s reopening, shutting bars and banning indoor restaurant dining statewide and closing churches, gyms and hair salons in hardest-hit counties.

The number of people hospitalised in California with COVID-19 has risen by 28 percent over the past two weeks, with a 20 percent increase in those needing intensive care, Newsom said during a conference call with reporters in the state capital of Sacramento.

Statewide, 6,485 patients were hospitalised with coronavirus as of Sunday, with 1,833 of them requiring intensive care, according to state data.

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