Removing desks from classrooms, overstocking on different cleaning products and putting stickers on the floors to distance students from each other are some of the things Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) is doing to prepare for the return to campus.
“We’re getting the schools ready in case the superintendent suddenly says that kids will be coming back,” DPMHS Principal Armen Petrossian said. “But there are a lot of unknown things right now. We’re preparing in every way we know how.”
At the moment, Los Angeles Unified District (LAUSD) hopes to return to school by January at the earliest. However, it depends on how Los Angeles County is doing in terms of the amount of COVID-19 cases. Regardless of when students are actually sent back to school, the district is going to do everything in their power to guarantee safety of their students and staff.
In the beginning of October, LAUSD Superintendent Austen Beutner shared the amount of cases in the county are still too high to be returning to school this semester. Beutner stated students will return as soon as the health conditions allow it. The district will have mandatory COVID-19 testing for all its students, staff and student’s family members, which is expected to reduce the risk of exposure. LAUSD will soon be giving parents a survey on their thoughts on the possibility of their child being sent back to school.
“Figuring out how to bring students back to schools and keeping them there in the safest way possible, will be our toughest challenge yet,” Beutner said in an KNBC article.
Students will be kept in small cohorts of no more than 15 to reduce the spread. The district assured that as they grow to learn more about the virus and different ways to enhance health practices, they will incorporate those practices as soon as possible.
According to Petrossian and the Plant Manager Michael Loukatos, classrooms and facilities will be cleaned electrostatically on a daily basis. DPMHS is unique in the fact that there is only one major hallway. To ensure a safe environment, hand sanitizing stations will be dispersed throughout the hallway. The district knows that they will need to change the way students get lunch but that hasn’t been decided either.
Petrossian believes that the chances of having any social interaction during the school day between students is very low. Right now, students are not able to socialize face to face because of COVID-19 but if they were sent back to school, the district is expected to limit these interactions while on campus as much as possible.
“Socializing is an important part of someone’s high school experience,” senior Jackie Prava said. “I have friends that are probably going to be leaving the state next year and I’m sad that I can’t see them face-to-face.”
The plans for transportation for students are undecided at the moment. Many DPMHS students take the school bus and the district is still unsure of how they will ensure student’s safety on these buses. They still need to decide how many students will be allowed on the buses and how frequently they should sanitize the seats.
On Nov. 9, schools in the district opened up for athletes to start their conditioning season. This is voluntary and in order for the athletes to be allowed on campus, they will need to have a negative coronavirus test. Coaches will put athletes into small groups to reduce exposure. While this plan won’t affect the majority of LAUSD students, it will allow the district to get a better idea of how returning to school will go.
“I look forward to the day we can go back to school,” guidance counselor Martina Torres said. “Our students really need to have in-person instruction as soon as possible. But I do think that if we can’t guarantee that the virus will not spread, then we can’t go back. We can’t do that to our students.”
As students still struggle with distance learning, the district hasn’t been ignoring their struggles. While planning for a hopeful return, the district has a goal of opening some schools to in-person tutoring. Only about 140 schools are planning on doing this out of over a thousand schools in the district. However, DPMHS will have tutoring sessions for all academic classes through Zoom.
While schools are preparing for the return of students, there’s still a chance that schools won’t open for the spring semester if there are still too many COVID-19 cases, according to Petrossian.
“That’s the million dollar question: is going back to school safe?” Petrossian said. “This is the first time something like this has happened. There could be things that we haven’t even thought of doing.”