Parents, children, and administrators from private and faith-based schools were outside of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration building in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 15, demanding the immediate reopening of their schools.
The group, known as the Students First Coalition of Los Angeles, had organized a car rally in front of the building where the LA County Board of Supervisors’ office is located.
“The car rally is a safe and responsible way to protest school closures that have kept hundreds of thousands of LA county students out of classrooms, isolated, and many without access to the tools to learn. It also represents the sacrifices students have had to make because of the government's response to the pandemic,” the coalition said, in a released statement.
During the hour-long demonstration, those in their vehicles honked car horns while others held posters with messages including, “Our kids deserve better,” and “Let me go back to school!”
“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,” Tom Konjoyan, head of the Village Christian Schools in Sun Valley and founder of the coalition, said at the rally.
“We know all the data and the science and research that says if schools follow five key mitigation strategies we can open safely,” he said
Those CDC strategies include the universal and correct use of masks, social distancing, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette, the cleaning and disinfection of facilities and proper contact tracing in combination with needed isolation and quarantining.
“Every one of our schools is prepared to do that,” Konjoyan said.
On Tuesday, county public health officials formally announced that TK-6 elementary schools could resume in-person instruction if safety plans required by county and state health departments were approved.
Konjoyan said he would reopen the Village Christian elementary schools.
“Our schools had received a waiver back in November; many schools like ours had also been able to take advantage of programs which enabled you to bring back small groups of students with special learning needs or struggling with online learning,” Konjoyan said.
In following the protocols, Konjoyan said the schools would be unable to “bring back every kid” to school on every day. “The physical distancing guidelines will limit your class size; in our case, less than 16 kids. It’s not ideal, not ‘back to school’ as normal, but back to school with lots of precautions,” he said.
He also does not expect all of his returning teachers to have been vaccinated.
“But our teachers want to be back in school. And they want kids back,” Konjoyan said. “We won’t require they be vaccinated but we will encourage it. I don’t think they will have any chance to get the vaccine for at least a month. Teachers were supposed to be in line behind healthcare workers, but now they are behind those 65 and older, and anyone at least 16 years old who has a medical condition.”