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School districts weigh health risks and costs of reopening in the fall

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The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is sticking with online classes come August, has over 600,000 students. Testing them for COVID-19 could cost $300 per student over the year. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

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The Los Angeles Unified School District will not reopen when school starts again in August, as COVID-19 cases spike in Southern California. Online learning will continue indefinitely in the nation’s second-largest school district. Across the country, school districts are weighing the costs of reopening.

In addition to the potential health risks of reopening during the pandemic, districts would have to pay for protective gear, for expanding the square footage of schools to make social distancing possible and for more buses.

“You’re looking at a significant increase in your transportation costs,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng with the American Association of School Administrators.

The organization found that, on average, districts are facing nearly $2 million in reopening costs.

“And an average district enrolls 3,500 students. And LA is no average district,” Ng said.

It has over 600,000 students, and LA says that testing those students and staff for the virus could cost $300 per student over the year.

But keeping kids at home also comes with costs. Julie Marsh, an education policy professor at the University of Southern California said that in the spring, teachers had problems using online tools.

“A lot of the challenges had to do with teachers not knowing how to even get students to show up, and turn on their screens, and to engage,” Marsh said.

LA’s school district said teachers and students will receive additional training in online education.

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