Omicron surge closes Culver City Unified schools next week

The Culver City Unified School District, the nation’s first K-12 public school system to issue a coronavirus student vaccination mandate, announced Friday that due to the spike in coronavirus cases, all of its schools will close to give students and staff time to “recover and recover,” the superintendent said.

“Things accelerated too fast,” Superintendent Quoc Tran said in an interview, referring to the rise of coronavirus cases that have overburdened the district’s 7,100 students and 900 staff. By taking a few days off, he said, “everyone will have the opportunity to be far away from each other, recover and recover and return Monday.”

Several other districts in Los Angeles County have delayed the start of the spring semester or closed schools amid the surge, including Montebello Unified and two schools in San Gabriel.

The ward will be closed Monday and Tuesday due to Pastor Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday and a scheduled day without instructions. Instead of returning Wednesday, students will stay home for the rest of the week and make the instructional hours later in the year, Tran said. Students will be sent home with a coronavirus test kit and they must show a negative test to return January 24th.

The decision comes with support from the school board, staff associations and board members, Tran said.

Since the school district returned on January 3, staff have been overwhelmed by efforts to detect contacts, staff shortages and difficulties in securing medical-grade masks and coronavirus tests. On Wednesday, the district sent a classroom of elementary school students home for remote instruction after multiple cases of coronavirus were identified among students.

The holidays will also hopefully reduce fears among families about the turnout, Tran said, giving families time to sign up for regular coronavirus tests offered by the neighborhood. There are still hundreds of students who are not enrolled.

Tran also said the break will give his district time to prepare for possible departure of teachers Jan. 18, the deadline when all staff must be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

To date, 4% of staff remain unvaccinated, or 38 people. And 82% of eligible students aged 12 and older are vaccinated, according to the district, which last month removed the deadline to focus on safety measures such as coronavirus masking and testing.

But the neighborhood has been hit hard by the current growth of the coronavirus. The district has recorded 565 positive student cases since August 2020 – and 441 were reported in the last two weeks.

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