Board president discusses LASD reopening


Elyssa Kennedy

LASD has applied for a waiver to return back to school.

The Los Altos School District (LASD) has applied for a waiver from the Santa Clara Public Health Department to begin physically reopening campuses in a limited capacity within the coming weeks. The district is hoping for a gradual return of all elementary school students in some capacity by the end of the school year. 

In March, LASD closed campuses at the same time as the Mountain View–Los Altos School District and has since followed a similar online learning model. Having originally applied for the waiver on Monday, August 17, the District is now updating its application to more closely match up with the County’s released guidelines. 

According to LASD Board President Brian Johnson, the District will follow a hybrid model where students will spend two days at school and three days off campus and will be required to wear masks and socially distance.

When asked about how feasible it would be for younger children to wear masks, Johnson responded by saying that young children are impacted at a lesser degree than adults.

“Fortunately, the science seems to indicate that younger kids are affected less by the coronavirus,” he said. “There are a lot of different studies of variable quality, but the indication seems to be that they’re less likely to spread it.”

While children are more likely to be asymptomatic, they can still contract the coronavirus but may either spread the disease as asymptomatic carriers or develop other, more serious complications such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, according to Harvard Health

Johnson believes that the waiver will be approved but is unsure when that’ll happen, as he said the County hasn’t given LASD a straightforward answer regarding the timeframe. 

“I think it took the first school district that got its waiver approved a month, so I’m hopeful it won’t take that long for us,” Johnson said.

While the County maintains the policy that schools must remain closed, it has begun to approve reopenings at the elementary school level. In order to reopen, districts must detail their plans for reopening as well as the safety measures they will take. LASD’s plan, which details contingencies should the virus spread within the District, is available online here.

Numerous private and a select number of public schools have applied for waivers, and the county recently approved a handful of them. 

After waiver approval, the County mandates a two-week period before students begin to return to campus, giving schools time to implement their safety procedures, as well as to notify families of the decision. 

Special needs students, according to Johnson, would be the first to return to campus, as the special education program has a higher need for in person learning. 

“We know that a lot of special education students really need in-person, one-on-one help in order to be successful,” Johnson said. “We can’t do anything about educating those students until we get a waiver, and so those are really the first set of students we’d like to bring back.”

If all goes well, the district hopes to bring transitional-kindergarten and kindergarten students back to school within two weeks of special education students. Timelines beyond this are vague, but the district hopes for a partial return of all elementary school students within six to seven months.