Students will be able to use playground equipment for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
By Marcos Franco, News Editor
Elementary schools and early-education centers within Los Angeles Unified reopened their playgrounds last Monday after being closed for over a year.
Since returning to school on April 12, students have been divided into cohorts, with different grades showing up on seperate days. Safety protocols will allow one cohort on the playground at a time, limiting kids on who they choose to play with. Students will be prompted to wash their hands before and after using equipment, which will be sanitized regularly. Custodial staff will disinfect playgrounds using electronic misters in between each group.
“We waited until we had welcomed young students back and made sure they were familiar with all of the safety protocols – wearing of masks, social-distancing, hand washing and staying in small cohorts – and we're comfortable now that they can take these practices to the playground,” said Superintendent Austin Beutner in a statement.
Despite recently lifting restrictions, local parks and recreation areas — including playgrounds — have remained open across California through infection surges. Under a regional-stay-at-home order last December, Los Angeles County opted to close playgrounds across its 174 parks. After receiving backlash from the community and some legislators, the county followed the state’s lead, reversing the decision.
For most elementary students, recess and lunch are some of the most exciting parts of the day. From tetherball to the handball courts, the schoolyard teaches students how to compete constructively and is where most friends are made.
According to the Nemours Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of children, kids who are physically active have shown improved sleep cycles and are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges. Due to abbreviated block scheduling (three hours a day), the perks of recess have not been offered to students until now.
Since reopening, Los Angeles Unified schools have not experienced an infection outbreak on any of its more than 1,000 campuses. The district has partnered with healthcare provider Infiniti Health as a contractor to conduct mobile testing for faculty and students. What was originally planned to be a weekly testing requirement for in-person has become bi-weekly due to lack of healthcare staff. The district has since hired a second contractor to increase testing, although Beutner has not announced the name of the company.
Despite hiccups in the reopening process, the district has reached a milestone in the fight against the pandemic. After 392 days of vacant campuses, students have returned to their desks and can now frolic on the jungle gym, a happy spring for LAUSD youth.
“When I visited schools last week to share this news, there were smiles all around,” said Beutner. “The path to recovery includes the opportunity for youngsters to exercise and play outdoors in a way that’s safe and appropriate.