Culver City Unified to close next week so all can ‘recoup and recover’ amid Omicron surge

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

“Things accelerated too quickly,” Superintendent Quoc Tran said in an interview, referring to the surge of coronavirus cases that have over-taxed the district of 7,100 students and 900 employees. By taking a few days off, he said, “everyone will get the chance to be distant from one another, recoup and recover and come back Monday.”

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

The district will be closed Monday and Tuesday due to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and a scheduled instruction-free day. Instead of returning Wednesday, students will stay home for the rest of the week and make up the instructional hours later in the year, Tran said. Students will be sent home with a coronavirus testing kit and they will need to show a negative test to return Jan. 24.

The decision comes with support of the school board, staff unions and administrators, Tran said.

Since the school district returned Jan. 3, staff have been overwhelmed by contact tracing efforts, staffing shortages and difficulties securing medical-grade masks and coronavirus tests. On Wednesday, the district sent a classroom of elementary-aged students home for remote instruction after multiple coronavirus cases were identified among students.

The days off will also hopefully alleviate fears among families about the surge, Tran said, and give families time to sign up students for regular coronavirus testing offered by the district. There are still hundreds of students who are not signed up.

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

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

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

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