On Jan. 26, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) held a regular Board of Education meeting during which Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy updated the community on how BHUSD stands as new COVID-19 cases are on the decline and stay-at-home orders have been lifted. With health conditions improving, parents inundated the public comment period with urgent pleads to reopen schools. A plan to possibly use the BHUSD campus as a community vaccination site only intensified the discussion. Many parents expressed concerns that the move could delay the safe return to the classroom.
On Jan. 27, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the L.A. City Council that if the decline in countywide infection rates continues to go down, the county may be able to reopen elementary schools for modified in-person instruction in a matter of weeks.
“I think if we continue to decrease, you might hit that number in like two to three weeks,” Ferrer said. “We dropped pretty significantly just in one week. I think we were at 75 cases per 100,000 like a week ago. And I think now we’re 45 – these are adjusted rates that the state uses.”
Under new guidance from Governor Gavin Newsom, K-6 schools in counties with a seven-day average of 25 or fewer cases per 100,000 residents would be eligible to begin reopening. The number is down from the 28 cases per 100,000 announced in December. However, BHUSD has created its own reopening standard of an average daily rate of 10 cases per 100,000 people.
During the board meeting, Bregy shared his current thinking. “When we look at vaccinations, this is not an either/or situation. This is not, ‘do we open schools,’ or ‘do we open a vaccination site?’ debate. This is not something that is going to get in the way of our opening. We are ready. We’ve worked very hard to be ready, and I’m very confident that our schools are ready to open when it’s safe.”
While the district is working in partnership with the city to help improve public health conditions by exploring the use of school property as vaccination sites, no contract has been signed yet.
Earlier this week, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Austin Beutner called on health officials to approve the District’s over 1,400 schools’ sites as distribution sites for COVID-19 vaccines. On Jan. 26, the Los Angeles County supervisors endorsed the use of schools–trusted central hubs–as vaccine sites.
“To have a temporary place to help vaccinate our employees and also our community members is a responsibility that we have,” Bregy said. “To sit back and just hope for the best and hope that people are able to get vaccinations, including our staff, would not be doing justice on our part. We really need to be actively involved in helping our community. Most of our staff do not live in Beverly Hills, so having a site in the district would allow an opportunity for our staff to get these vaccinations. I have offered the support to the city and the city is working with myself to help come up with a plan.”
Teachers are included in the state’s Phase 1B vaccine phase, along with public safety personnel and food and agriculture workers. The state is expected to begin Phase 1B in the beginning of February.
“There are places in California and throughout the rest of the country where teachers have already had their vaccinations,” Bregy said. “And you can see the conditions in their community is improving at a faster rate than ours. Getting our educators vaccinations is something that is critical to improve the conditions in the community. And so, that is first and foremost on our mind.”
Parents, students and staff are encouraged to participate in a Town Hall hosted by BHUSD on Feb. 2, where the community is invited to ask questions and learn what a hybrid model looks like when it’s time to return. To register visit bhusd.org/townhall/