A caravan of parents and their children descended on downtown Los Angeles Monday morning for a demonstration demanding the immediate reopening of schools — and officials later said that could begin this week.
“I want my kid to get an education,” parent Susanne Jacobson told KTLA. “He’s in eighth grade. He’s not ready for high school next year. He hasn’t had an education in a year. Distance learning is not working.”
A group called Students First Coalition of Los Angeles organized the car rally outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration building, where the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has its office. Participants honked and held posters with messages including, “Our kids deserve better.” Another poster read, “Let me go back to school!”
The demand could be met soon, with L.A. County health officials announcing Monday evening that they expect the county on Tuesday to reach the state threshold for reopening schools, an adjusted case rate of 25 per 100,000.
“This encouraging news means that dozens of elementary schools will be permitted to reopen for in-class instruction for students grades TK-6 as early as this week,” the health department wrote in a statement.
Schools will still have to submit plans outlining their safety protocols to county and state health officials to get permission to reopen.
Further information is expected to be released by public health director Barbara Ferrer in a Tuesday news briefing that will be livestreamed on KTLA.com.
Some protesters emphasized the prolonged closure’s toll on children’s mental health.
“It’s actually not OK, kids could get mental breakdowns, I hear some kids get depression from it,” said Brody Moos, a fourth-grader.
Remy Moos, who’s in third-grade, complained of the discomfort of online school.
“My eyes are on the screen too much, and it kind of hurts my brain,” the student said.
Coalition leaders spoke to reporters during the rally outside the building.
“We represent hundreds, if not thousands of schools here in Los Angeles County who have prepared to reopen our schools safely. And we want the opportunity to open our schools now,” said Tom Konjoyan, who’s head of the Village Christian School in Sun Valley and founded the coalition.
Earlier this month, the group penned an open letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom saying the state’s phased reopening framework “cannot stand,” and that “all schools should with proper and appropriate mitigation strategies in place be permitted to open immediately.”
According to the group, the missive as of Monday afternoon has been signed by more than 1,600 parents, 82 medical practitioners, 145 private school staffers, 42 private school administrators, 28 public school staffers and one public school administrator.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner has also pushed for the state to make reopening schools a priority. On Monday morning, he announced the district’s first COVID-19 vaccine site for eligible employees. Beutner again asserted that vaccinating all school workers is key.
“A clearly articulated plan to provide vaccinations to school staff in the nation’s second largest school district, combined with the leadership Los Angeles Unified has already shown in preparing its campuses, can be a model for other school districts across the country,” Beutner said.