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Los Angeles School District Encourages Sick Students to Attend Classes

students boarding school bus

When Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in California reopened following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) declaration, public school officials initially demanded that parents keep students at home if they showed even the slightest symptoms of illness.1 At one time, LAUSD had the strictest COVID-19 protocols in the United States, which included mask mandates, 10-day quarantines and weekly testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.2 Now, however, the messaging from LAUSD officials for the 2023-2024 school year has changed and students are encouraged to attend school if they test negative for SAR-CoV-2, have a fever of less than 100.4F and their symptoms of illness are mild.3

LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the new guideline is aimed at countering high absence rates that are responsible for negatively affecting the mental health of students and their ability to learn.4 Carvalho stated:

I understand maybe the surprise of some parents, but we have always been informed as a school system by the expert voices of medical entities. … Times have changed. Conditions have changed and the recommendations of protocols have shifted as well.5

School Attendance Now Seen as More Important Than Reducing Transmission of Infection

Carvalho said that the harm caused by erring on the side of too much caution have been too severe. He said:

The physical threat of COVID has been by far replaced with the mental consequences as attached to the lack of consistent attendance in school. We cannot continue in an environment where 40 percent of our kids are chronically absent.6

According to LAUSD, students who do not attend school for more than 10 days are considered “chronically absent.”7

LAUSD guidelines now allow for parents to send their children to school when a child has a mild cough or a cold, when a child wakes up late and during inclement weather.8 The guidelines encourage families to use “parental instinct” to determine whether a child is too sick to go to school.9 Parents should keep their child at home when the child has a fever over 100.4°F, when the student is tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and if absence benefits the student’s mental and behavioral health.10

Anuradha Seshadri, MD, internist and pediatrician at University of California Los Angeles Health Century City said he agreed with LAUSD’s guidance…

I completely agree with LAUSD’s message. It has been shown to improve their psyche and emotional well-being by seeing their friends at school, interacting, coming back and being a part of extracurricular activities, getting that exercise that they need, and just social stimulation is very, very important for one’s health.11

There has also been discussion that LAUSD will lift its COVID shot requirements for employees and teachers. Carvalho said he was planning to introduce a revised vaccination policy to the LAUSD Board of Education.12

Daily Attendance Rates Tied to State Funding of School Districts

Carvalho said that school districts in California receive funding based on average daily attendance rather than the total number of students who are enrolled, which he believes is a flawed system. Absenteeism in the years during the social distancing restrictions tied to COVID pandemic public health policies stalled the funding to the school district.13

Last year, 40 percent of students in LAUSD were “chronically absent” and the year prior to that, it was at an all time high of 50 percent. Carvalho said that this is crisis in education. He noted:

I met students who were out 72 days, 40 days, 50 days, 27 days–and when you ask the parents or the students the reasons, one of the reasons that was conveyed to us was that ‘my [child] had the sniffles, and therefore I didn’t think I could send them to school.14

Carvalho added that if the current 90 percent daily attendance rate increased to 95 percent as it was prior to the pandemic, LAUSD would receive $300 million more in state funding.15


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5 Responses

  1. Oh, finally a feel good article, thanks! Their newfound love of hypochondria and fear of germs cost the district three hundred million dollars! Good news! Hopefully the people will receive a tax refund. Doubtful they’ll actually understand that their submission to rising tyranny was the root cause of their latest problems. These people are not experts. This is not science.

  2. LAUSD already demenstrated to the parents and the students that school is NOT important and now they want to say something different, as though they care about these children at all! Very sad what they have done.

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