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Citing Covid Threat, LA Public Schools—2nd Largest District in US—Won't Resume In-Person Teaching This Fall

"The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control."

Students wear facemasks and sit at desks spaced appropriately apart as as per coronavirus guidelines, during summer school sessions at Happy Day School in Monterey Park, California on July 9, 2020.

Students wear facemasks and sit at desks spaced appropriately apart as as per coronavirus guidelines, during summer school sessions at Happy Day School in Monterey Park, California on July 9, 2020. California Governor Gavin Newsom says the reopening of California schools for the coming school year will be based on safety and not pressure from President Donald Trump as California sets records for one-day increases in Covid-19 cases. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

The nation's second largest school system, the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced Monday that classes would not resume in-person in August, citing the threat of the coronavirus.

"Unfortunately, Covid-19 continues to spread in the Los Angeles area and the virus is going to impact how we start the new school year," Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement.

"While the new school year will begin on August 18th as scheduled, it will not begin with students at school facilities," said Beutner. "The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise."

L.A. Unified, which enrolled roughly 600,000 students in the 2019-2020 academic year, issued a joint statement Monday with the San Diego Unified School District. That smaller district, which begins its school year August 31, will also begin with online-online instruction.

"One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control," the school systems said, noting that free meals would continue to be provided at distribution stations.

"The coronavirus has not taken a summer vacation, as many had hoped," the school districts said. "Indeed, the virus has accelerated its attacks on our community."

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Guidance from the federal level on reopening has not materialized, they said.

The announcement regarding fall instruction came days after the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the union representing teachers at L.A. Unified, called for school campuses to remain closed in light of rising coronavirus infections.

"It is time to take a stand against Trump's dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts the lives of our members, our students, and our families at risk," said UTLA president Cecily Myart-Cruz said a statement last week.

"We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance," said Myart-Cruz. "Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities," she said.

Teachers' groups including the National Education Association have continued to reject the Trump administration's push for schools to reopen for in-person learning without a safety plan. The administration was also accused over the weekend of trying to suppress CDC materials warning that a reopening of schools for in-person learning for "full-sized, in-person classes" would present the "highest risk" of spreading coronavirus compared to online or smaller classes practicing social distancing and other protective measures. 

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