Los Angeles Unified Begins COVID-19 Testing Program
• First Public School System in the Nation to Provide Testing to Students, Staff and Families
• 5,400 Staff Members and Their Children Received Tests Last Week
• District Aims to Conduct 40,000 Tests a Day When it is Safe and Appropriate for Students to Return to SchoolSeptember 14, 2020 - Los Angeles Unified School District announced today that it has successfully completed the trial phase of its COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing program. The District is now testing all staff members currently working at school sites and their children, who will be in a childcare program at schools.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while school-based testing and contact-tracing efforts are unprecedented, they are necessary and appropriate,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area.”
Recognizing that regular testing and contact tracing are essential to reopening Los Angeles Unified’s 1,386 schools in the safest way possible, Los Angeles Unified began planning and preparing for its program in May and announced it in August. The program and its corresponding research are a groundbreaking collaboration between Los Angeles Unified and the University California Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford University and The Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft, two testing providers, and healthcare leaders Anthem Blue Cross, Cedars-Sinai and Health Net.
Following the initial, baseline testing of all staff and students there will be periodic testing based on advice from epidemiologists at Stanford, UCLA and The Johns Hopkins University. Their models will take into account the results of prior testing, learnings from the latest research and information about the health impacts of COVID-19 in the communities Los Angeles Unified serves. Testing will also be provided for household members of students or staff who test positive for the virus or those who show symptoms.
The District underscored that no decision about a return to school facilities will be made until the COVID-19 case rate in Los Angeles County is significantly lower for a consistent period of time.
COVID-19 testing for students, staff and family members is just one piece of Los Angeles Unified’s three-part return-to-school plan, which includes state-of-the-art health practices at schools and the ability to notify and isolate any members of the school community who may have come in contact with the virus.
Classrooms and facilities already are being electrostatically cleaned top to bottom, air-filtration systems have been upgraded with the equivalent of N-95 membranes, personal protection equipment is provided to all individuals at a campus, and classrooms and facilities have been reconfigured to keep everyone at a school a safer distance apart. When students do return to schools, they will be kept in small cohorts to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
This week, Los Angeles Unified will begin to offer care for the children of essential workers, those individuals who are currently working at schools. About 3,000 children will be kept in small cohorts of no more than six children, together with two adults. All are being tested for the virus before they come to school.
“This program will provide the foundation for students and teachers to return to school in the safest possible manner, and it will help keep students in school because we can identify and isolate cases before more people are exposed to the virus,” Superintendent Beutner continued.
“With close to 700,000 students and 75,000 staff members at schools, an operation of this scale has implications beyond schools. We will be testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals and the results will be of value to researchers and policy makers as they develop plans to combat the virus and provide additional support to schools,” Superintendent Beutner concluded.
“This program will allow testing for students, their families and school staff,” Board President Dr. Richard Vladovic said. “It is the first step in allowing a safe and secure return to school. With state-of-the-art health practices, technology and our amazing partners, Los Angeles Unified is a national leader in testing and contact tracing for our school community.”
“The health and safety of Los Angeles Unified’s students, faculty, staff and their families remain our highest priority,” Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III said.
“We must be learners and leaders,” Board Member Mónica García said. “Los Angeles Unified is modeling a new standard in creating conditions for learning in 2020. We must do everything we can to welcome students and employees back to school safely and responsibly. Thank you to all involved.”
“As your Board Member, a career educator and administrator, my No. 1 priority will always be to protect the health and safety of our students and the entire school community,” Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said. “During these unprecedented times, we have limited control of a global pandemic, but what we are able to offer are solutions for families and essential workers who must return to work and need care and safe spaces for their children. The testing and contact tracing program is necessary and the first step for us, as a district, is to ensure that everyone returns to school in the safest conditions without risking the health and safety of our students, families and dedicated staff.”
“I am proud that L.A. Unified continues to step up in innovative ways during this crisis to fill gaps in the social safety net,” Board Member Nick Melvoin said. “In the absence of a coordinated national or statewide system of testing and contact tracing, we are embarking upon this ambitious plan that we hope will contribute greatly to the health and safety of our employees, students and community and – eventually – to the return of students to safe and supportive school learning environments.”
“We have said from the beginning we are going to follow the science,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg said. “This testing and contact-tracing program will help us get students and staff back to schools in a way that is safe and appropriate.”
"Our testing and tracing program sets the foundation for bringing students back to campus as it helps ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Board Member Kelly Gonez said. “As a Board, we are committed to meeting the needs of our families and staff during the pandemic, and that includes slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our Los Angeles Unified community."
Los Angeles Unified Launches COVID-19 Testing and Tracing Program At Schools To Include Research on Impact and Effect of Reopening
Collaborators include UCLA, Stanford University, The Johns Hopkins University, Health Net, Anthem Blue Cross, Microsoft, CRL and SummerBioAugust 16, 2020 - Superintendent Austin Beutner announced today the launch of a program that will provide regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to school staff, students and their families. As part of this plan, research will commence to study the impact and effects of reopening and this data will be available to the general public.
The testing and contact tracing program and its corresponding research are a groundbreaking collaboration between Los Angeles Unified School District and leading scientists from the University California Los Angeles (UCLA), Stanford University and the Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft, testing experts, and healthcare companies Anthem Blue Cross and Health Net. Together, they will be part of a task force co-chaired by Beutner and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Beutner said. “This will provide a public health benefit to the school community, as well as the greater Los Angeles area. This program will also provide significant education benefits for students by getting them back to school sooner and safer and keeping them there. We hope this effort also will provide learnings which can benefit other school systems and communities across the nation as we all combat this pandemic.”
Strategic interpretation of the evidence on testing and epidemiological modeling will be provided by the Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and UCLA. They are providing their services pro bono.
Los Angeles Unified begins the program Monday in a measured fashion with a focus on carefully fine-tuning systems and operational logistics as the new school year starts. Tests first will be provided to staff already working at schools and their children, utilizing childcare Los Angeles Unified is offering to staff at schools.
Testing then will be provided to all staff and students over time. The goal in this early phase is to establish a baseline. After that, there will be periodic testing of staff and students. The frequency and schedule for that testing will be set after the initial testing phase based on epidemiological modeling.
The spread of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles area still far exceeds guidelines from the State of California governing the possible return of students to school campuses. Any decision about the return of students to schools is some time away. The launch of this program now allows a system to be built and tested, as well as provides a base of knowledge to help prepare for an eventual return to school campuses.
“Determining an ideal testing strategy involves the application of epidemiologic principles and modeling informed by all available information,” said Dr. Kristan Staudenmayer, Associate Professor and the researcher leading Stanford’s contribution to the efforts. “Based on our work applying policy-relevant epidemiologic modeling to COVID-19 operational challenges at Stanford Hospital and Stanford University, we believe Stanford can contribute to the important work being conducted by Los Angeles Unified.”
Testing also will be provided to household members of students and staff who test positive for the virus and household members who show symptoms. These measures will help get students back to school as soon as possible while protecting the health and safety of all in the school community. And it will help keep them there if an isolated outbreak were to occur.
“In addition to the work done by Stanford and the Johns Hopkins University, UCLA will bring breadth and depth of scientific expertise to study the impact and effects of Los Angeles Unified’s re-opening plan and to share the information learned from these research efforts throughout the world,” said Dr. Steven M. Dubinett, Director of the UCLA Clinical & Translational Science Institute.
“Since schools were closed, science has been our guide and science creates the foundation for this effort,” Beutner added. “This collaboration is the result of months of around-the-clock work by many, and I’m grateful for their efforts to get us to this point.”
In addition to the three universities, the effort includes the following companies:
● Microsoft is providing an application – powered by Microsoft Azure and the Power Platform – that will enable school administrators and health officials to track insights into trends and potential risks to help manage COVID-19 exposures and cases. The application includes a robust process for Los Angeles Unified employees and students to self-screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. The application also includes expediting COVID-19 test registration, dashboards and phone apps and portals that help capture daily symptoms, test results, and consolidates data to identify high-risk areas for awareness and safety improvement, case management and facility-readiness management.
● Clinical Reference Laboratory (CRL), one of the largest privately held testing laboratories in the U.S., will provide Los Angeles Unified with testing specimen collection kits and process the tests in CRL’s lab in Lenexa, Kan. CRL received FDA Emergency Use Authorization for CRL Rapid Response™, a saliva-based COVID-19 RT-PCR test that can be self-collected at home, work, school or any other setting. In partnership with Vive Concierge Inc., a minority-owned and woman-led advanced telemedicine, social impact and health-equity platform, it will deliver test results virtually and provide optional additional physician support to students, families and staff.
● SummerBio is an automated diagnostic testing company and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) laboratory based in Silicon Valley and will be providing RT-PCR test processing to support the Los Angeles Unified testing program. SummerBio has automated the existing gold-standard RT-PCR test to increase volumes and lower costs with fast turnaround times.
● Anthem Blue Cross has been supporting the effort through thought leadership, leveraging its health-related data and research and will continue to participate as a member of the task force.
● Health Net will support a portion of testing-related costs and work with Los Angeles Unified to make sure every eligible family is enrolled in Medi-Cal or Covered California. Health Net will also provide technical assistance to Los Angeles Unified to route claims for students and staff with existing health coverage and explore sharing de-identified information about the health impact of the virus.
Former Secretary of Education Duncan brings extensive experience in overseeing the creation and implementation of effective education policy at the local, state and national levels. Secretary Duncan will help ensure the effort coordinates with relevant government agencies and that public policy implications are shared with the appropriate policy makers.
“Scientific studies emphasize the need for a robust and consistent testing regimen to keep students, teachers, staff and the broader community safe as we return to classrooms,” Duncan said. “We all know that children learn better in a class with a teacher and we cannot deprive them of the education they need to lead us into tomorrow. We’ve never done anything like this before, but the future of public education depends on our success.”
“The safe and quick return of our students, teachers and staff to school is one of our society’s highest priorities,” said Brian Ternan, CEO of Health Net. “As the father of school-age children and the leader of a company that employs thousands of parents, I witness daily the challenges that our families and children face. I know the longing my teenager has to see her classmates and teachers again and know this is shared by every Los Angeles Unified student across the county. We are thankful for the leadership shown by Los Angeles Unified in developing this ambitious program, and for the opportunity to contribute our resources and expertise to find a solution that judiciously restores in-person learning.”
“Microsoft Education’s top concern is supporting educators, students and their caregivers with resources to support their health and learning,” said Eran Megiddo, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Education and Modern Life Experiences. “Since the spring, our team has collaborated closely with Los Angeles Unified to provide educational continuity through Microsoft Teams and empower faculty and staff with the tools they need to keep their students engaged and learning. As districts begin to plan for school re-openings, they will need to monitor and manage their staff and students to help ensure those at risk of spreading the virus stay home until cleared by medical providers. We are pleased to work with and support Los Angeles Unified in managing the complexity of this undertaking.”
“We support Superintendent Beutner’s efforts to set a new, higher standard for workplace safety in response to COVID-19”, said Rick Middleton, Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters Local 572. Teamsters represents more than 3,600 employees including school administrative assistants, food service managers, plant managers and transportation supervisors who work for Los Angeles Unified.
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