LOS ANGELES—Amid a surge in COIVD-19 cases, almost one-third of students were absent on Jan. 11, the first day of the spring semester in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
The district serves over 600,000 students, of whom 30 percent—about 180,000—did not go back to school on Tuesday, mostly because of testing positive or experiencing technical issues when uploading their test results to the district’s Daily Pass mobile application.
All LAUSD students and staff must upload proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to the Daily Pass app to return to campus, as required by the district on Jan. 3.
As of Jan. 11, about 88 percent of students and 91 percent of employees have uploaded their test results to Daily Pass before in-person instruction restarted, according to the district.
Seventeen percent of students uploaded positive results while 12 percent did not upload any results, leaving about 1 percent who uploaded a negative test result but still did not return to campus.
This comes as some parents express reluctance in sending their children back to campus amid the Omicron surge.
“There’s still some nerves and hesitancy,” school board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Hopefully each day that goes by, more families will feel confident that their kids are safe and well taken care of and learning at school.”
Other parents, however, oppose the district’s pandemic safety protocols—some of the strictest among school districts in the nation.
“First they want to do a baseline test before the kids go back to school. … Now they want to test weekly,” Kristina Irwin, who has three children in the LAUSD, told The Epoch Times in a previous interview. “It’s so ridiculous. Where does it end?”
The number of absent students—as well as absent test results—could also be due to technical difficulties with the Daily Pass app, which reportedly slowed the morning of the district’s first school day in 2022 due to an overload of users.
The district’s Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said the district anticipated issues with Daily Pass during a Jan. 11 press conference at Olive Vista Middle School.
“We thought we might have something like this occur, and we apologize for that,” Reilly said.
She said that school officials can print out a daily list of students approved for on-campus instruction and check the list off manually when Daily Pass is slow or unavailable.
As for LAUSD employees, the district reported about 2,000 teachers absent, while 262 school bus routes had to be covered by alternate drivers due to COVID-19.
Rather than closing school campuses due to short staffing, however, the district is relying on their “contingency plans” to cover absent staff.
“This is our third semester under this new normal. We know how to handle this,” Reilly said of the district’s contingency plans.
District officials said there are about 4,000 employees working at the central office or local district offices who can be sent to cover absent teachers, while administrators who hold teaching credentials are also prepared to fill in when needed.
Additionally, the district has plans to consolidate bus routes if there is a shortage of drivers.
According to Reilly, about 1,800 district employees were sent to assist staff on school campuses on Jan. 11, and many bus drivers were asked to repeat their bus routes for a second round of student pick-ups.
Though in-person instruction has resumed, all athletic competitions for the week have been postponed due to a surge in coronavirus cases, the district announced on Jan. 9.
An LAUSD spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.