QR Codes Will Be LA Schools' First Line of COVID Defense When Students Return Monday

Sarah Favot

Favot is an award-winning journalist and adjunct instructor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She previously was an investigative and data reporter at national education news site The 74 and local news site LA School Report. She's also worked at the Los Angeles Daily News. She was a Livingston Award finalist in 2011 and holds a Master's degree in journalism from Boston University and BA from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

QR Codes Will Be LA Schools' First Line of COVID Defense When Students Return Monday
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

When students at the nation's second largest school district return to school Monday, they will be carrying not only a backpack, but a QR code that is supposed to be the first line of defense against spreading COVID-19.

The QR code is like a pass school officials scan to make sure teachers and students' health screenings, COVID test results and vaccination records are aligned with safety rules. The district called the technology, created in partnership with Microsoft at no cost to the district, "groundbreaking" and the first of its kind in the nation, but glitches have already emerged.


Some parents are preparing for potential "lines around the block" on Monday as children are screened.

The application is effectively a massive living database that will track the more than half a million students and about 75,000 employees that will have to undergo weekly COVID testing.

To keep children safe, district officials plan on administering and processing 100,000 COVID tests each day.

The Daily Pass was first used in the spring when 1 in 4 students attended in-person classes. Starting Monday, the district will be faced with vastly increasing the scale of its use.

Some parents who sent their children to school in the spring are raising concerns. Several said the website crashed some mornings and that test results didn't load within the expected 24 to 36 hour timeframe necessary.

Still the Los Angeles Unified School District boasts that it has the "strongest safety standards in the country," and a spokesperson said the Daily Pass is part of its "robust" mitigation measures.

On Monday, the website will again be put to the test.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this week ordered that all teachers and staff must either be vaccinated or submit to a weekly test that shows they are not infected with COVID-19, a protocol backed by the nation's largest teachers union and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden's chief advisor on COVID-19. LAUSD Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said Friday LAUSD employees must be vaccinated by Oct. 15.

And the district is going even further than the state's mandate, requiring weekly testing for students and staff regardless of their vaccination status. Masks will also be required indoors and outdoors while on school campuses. The L.A. County Department of Public Health guidelines only require masks be worn indoors, but school districts can enforce more stringent protocols.

LAUSD's Daily Pass app

Problems With the App

In the spring, if a negative COVID test result was not loaded into the app, students couldn't return to campus on the first day of school.

Leo Jungeun Oh said her daughter missed three weeks because her results didn't appear in the app even after taking three tests at a district vaccination site.

She said her 9-year-old stood outside the gate in tears while she spoke to the principal. In the car, her daughter's sadness turned into anger as she couldn't understand why she was excluded from school, while her older sister wasn't.

Oh enrolled both children in the Santa Clarita Unified School District where they don't require weekly testing.

"Why do I have to get victimized, and my children, it's just too much for us; I'm done with this," she said.

Parents are responsible for getting their child a "baseline" COVID test before Monday and the district has established several testing sites throughout the sprawling district. Test results are added to a child's Daily Pass profile. Parents can call a hotline at 213-443-1300 if test results are not appearing on the app. Once it does load, parents recommend taking a screen shot of the QR code or printing it out.

At the testing sites, some parents have reported waiting two to three hours in line, errors in the system with spelling of names and birthdates, and challenges for new student enrollees in getting an ID number to go into the system, Jenny Hontz, spokesperson for the parent advocacy organization Speak Up, said.

Not everyone has had such bad experiences. Others said there was a quick turnaround with results and the testing sites were very convenient.

If a student hasn't been tested by the first day of school, rapid antigen tests may be available so children will not be turned away.

"However this is not guaranteed and parents are encouraged to schedule the baseline test for their child as soon as possible," a district spokesperson said. No appointments are necessary.

Easing Anxiety

LAUSD officials said at Tuesday's school board meeting that the enhanced safety measures should ease parents' worries about sending their unvaccinated children to school, the vast majority for the first time since March 2020.

"We learned so much from the spring and we are in fact looking joyfully to back to school 2021," the district's chief of schools, David Baca, said.

To take on the massive undertaking, 900 healthcare professionals will administer COVID tests at about 1,000 campuses across the county.

The district is sharing the data collected through the Daily Pass with Stanford University, UCLA, The Johns Hopkins University, Anthem Blue Cross, Healthnet and Cedars Sinai to "to provide insights for strategies" for creating a safe environment. While the data is anonymized, some parents and advocates have privacy concerns.

And there are worries about the district's ability to just carry out the feat.

"There are some questions about the capacity for LAUSD to get every student tested weekly with the number of students expected to return to campus in the fall," Hontz said.

In the spring, the weekly COVID testing requirement was extended to every 14 days after the district failed to keep up with demand. The district said students will be able to answer screening questions verbally when they arrive if they don't have the QR code.

Negeen Ben-Cohen, a parent of three LAUSD students, is part of California Students United, a group of parents that filed a lawsuit opposing the district's weekly testing protocols. She is hoping the website can handle the influx of parents that will be logging on Monday.

"There were a couple days (in the spring) that I had to struggle, standing at the gate trying to get QR codes to load so that my kids could get in," she said.

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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