Today I am writing to update you on the current guidance from the Los Angeles County Health Department regarding the reopening of K-12 schools. I have also included a recent message from Paul Escala, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in which he explains how current LA County Health guidelines affect Catholic schools including Damien.
Currently, the leadership of the LA County Public Health Department has indicated that even if Los Angeles County is below state mandated thresholds of COVID-19 cases, TK-6 schools will likely not reopen for a minimum of 6 weeks and 7-12 schools will not reopen until early November or after election day. In light of these announcements, the Department of Catholic Schools (Archdiocese of Los Angeles) is building a diverse coalition of education partners to create a single voice in asking for a greater level of transparency and context as to how these decisions are made and to voice our current concerns for our students, families and communities.
Below you will find Superintendent Escala’s message, which includes a list of County Supervisors who can assist in this process. Members of our community who wish to share their views and opinions with their representatives should do so by contacting their local supervisor.
Excerpt from Paul Escala’s Message – Information pertinent to Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties has been omitted.
Waivers: The leadership of the LA County Public Health Department continues to state that waivers for elementary schools (TK-6) are not being accepted at this time. Despite the county being below the state’s threshold of 200 cases or less per 100K residents for over two weeks now, the department has stated that they are not comfortable with TK-6 students returning to in-person instruction under waivers for at least six more weeks. As for all K-12 schools, “early November”, or “after the election” is when we might expect a return to in-person instruction, according to the department leadership. They did not offer what metric(s) they are using to make a decision, which has created a significant level of concerns among many school leaders. In addition, the Board of Supervisors are directly engaged on the decision to permit waivers, making this now a political matter.
As a result of this recent news, we are engaged with other school leaders to form a diverse coalition to speak with one voice and advocate for transparency on how decisions are being made and for the opening of the waiver process under the state’s protocols. I would encourage those in your communities who are concerned about this issue to contact their respective Board of Supervisor’s office and share their concerns. The following are their email address and the areas they represent:
Board of Supervisors Website: http://bos.lacounty.gov/About-Us/Board-of-Supervisors (Links to an external site.)
Kathryn Barger (Fifth District – La Verne): firstname.lastname@example.org
Hilda Solis (First District): email@example.com;
Mark Ridley-Thomas (Second District): firstname.lastname@example.org;
Sheila Kuehl (Third District): email@example.com;
Janice Hahn (Fourth District): FourthDistrict@bos.lacounty.gov;
County Liaison: LiaisonCOVID19@ph.lacounty.go
We will continue to keep you informed as to new updates as they become available. Thank you all for your tireless dedication to the advancement of our school ministry.
Yours in Christ,
Paul M. Escala
In Summary, my goal is to provide you with an update on current guidance and the limitations that exist and affect our Damien Community. We are continuing to plan for a return to campus, developing processes for students and faculty screenings as they arrive on campus, implementing additional cleaning and sanitization guidelines, and addressing resource needs for protective equipment and any other procedures to allow for our safe return.
I again ask for your continued prayers for our students, faculty, families, and community and for me as we continue to navigate the challenges placed before us.
St. Damien…Pray For Us!
Dr. Joe Siegmund, Ph.D. ‘86
Damien High School