May 22, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

LAUSD Chief Medical Director and Superintendent Recommend Sending Mildly Sick Students to Class

This Change In Policy Comes As A Surprise and Likely Related To Absence Rates

By Dolores Quintana

Smita Malhotra, MD, Chief Medical Director of the Los Angeles Unified School District, issued a message on the Los Angeles Unified School District website that changed the school district’s policy on keeping your children home when they are sick. 

In the message, she stated, “My advice on keeping children home from school now is similar to what was in place pre-pandemic. It is not practical for working parents to keep children home from school for every runny nose, nor is it in the best interest of children to continue to miss school after pandemic school closures.

If your child has a mild runny nose or cold symptoms that are not bothering them and they test negative for COVID-19, send them to school. Your child can wear a mask at school when they have these mild symptoms.

However, if your child has a fever (100.4F and above), vomiting or diarrhea, severe pain, or difficulty breathing, take them to see their pediatrician. The best advice I have given parents is to follow your parental instinct-you will know when a child is too sick to attend school.”

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has also advocated for students to attend school even when mildly unwell, a departure from the stringent health precautions maintained during the pandemic. Carvalho and Malhotra both emphasized their belief that not attending school has been linked to detrimental effects on mental health and hindered learning. The superintendent seeks to increase school attendance by five percent this year after U.S. schools have seen extremely high amounts of student absences since the beginning of the pandemic. It seems boosting attendance is the top priority for LAUSD, which is related to state funding to school districts. According to Carvalho, an increase of 5% would mean an additional $300 million in funding. 

Carvalho said, as quoted by The Los Angeles Times, “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.”

This change in policy constitutes a complete 180 from the LAUSD Covid policy from the past, which was one of the nation’s most strict in regards to Covid infections. Malhotra said, “More than two years later, with the availability of vaccines, therapeutics, and a greater understanding of the COVID-19 virus, my message to parents is this: schools are some of the safest places for children to be.

Covid rates in Los Angeles County have been steadily increasing since the July 4 holiday weekend, which has been a reliable spike in infections each year since 2020. The daily average number of Covid cases in August 2 was 264, and the daily average number of Covid cases in August 9 was 333. SARS-CoV-2 wastewater concentration has also increased from 12% to 19% in the same time period. Both Los Angeles County Public Health and LAUSD think that these upticks in infection and indicators of infection are relatively low.

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