Longfellow Playground

The construction of the new Longfellow Elementary School Playground has finished. Students will be able to use the playground once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Long Beach Unified School District will bring students in grades five and below back to campuses on March 29, delaying the return to in-person learning from the initial March 1 target, in an effort to ensure all staff members get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, officials said this week.

Los Angeles County officials said Monday evening, Feb. 15, that the drop in coronavirus case rates could permit elementary schools to reopen. Under state rules, elementary schools can reopen when a county’s adjusted case rate hits 25 per 100,000 people or below. L.A. County has been below that for five days, as of Wednesday.

The county’s announcement has sent school districts scrambling to resume in-person learning as quickly as possible. LBUSD’s Board of Education decided during its Wednesday evening, Feb. 17, meeting to target a March 29 reopening for elementary school kids — more than a year after campuses first shuttered.

“For the first time since March 13 of 2020,” Superintendent Jill Baker told the board on Wednesday, “the adjusted COVID case rates permit us to plan for phasing in of students for in-person instruction.”

The change in date, Baker said, will allow for every TK-5 staff member who wants to be inoculated to receive both doses of the vaccine before students return.

Through the city’s educator vaccination program, Baker said, 3,600 employees have received the vaccine. She added that being vaccinated is “not a requirement.”

Under the district’s plan, elementary teachers would return to campus on March 22, with students following the week after.

Classroom instruction would be on a hybrid schedule, according to a staff presentation, though parents could choose to have their students continue with distance learning. Students who return to in-person learning will be on campus for 2.5 hours and will then return home to continue with extra work.

In a health and safety update, LBUSD Deputy Superintendent Tiffany Brown said that asymptomatic screening is also “not a requirement” but it is a recommendation for counties in the state’s most-restrictive purple tier, where LA County remains. To move to the less-restrictive red tier, LA County must have both a new daily case rate of 7 or fewer per 100,000 people and a positive testing rate of 8% or lower.

“As we move from the purple to the red tier, we will consider our practices going forward,” Brown said, “and at that time we will likely (be) following the testing cadence that’s laid out by the California Department of Public Health, which transitions from weekly asymptomatic screening to biweekly and ultimately transition away from screening.”

The school board on Wednesday also set dates for possible returns for the district’s older students, with middle school students potentially returning April 20, high school seniors on April 19 and those in grades 9 to 11 on April 26.

But whether those return dates will work is out of Long Beach’s hands. While sixth graders can return with the rest of the elementary school levels, grades 7 to 12 cannot return until LA County moves to the red tier.

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