Coronavirus infection rates have shot up to 13.5% among students and staff tested this week in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a nearly 10-fold rise since before winter break, as officials said Friday that they are moving forward to safely open classrooms for in-person learning on Tuesday.

The vast majority of Los Angeles County school systems also have determined they can remain open. But Montebello Unified, the county’s third-largest district, will delay reopening by one week. And Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, an independent charter-school network with 3,300 students serving the northeast San Fernando Valley, will return to online learning for two weeks.

Through Thursday, more than half of L.A. Unified’s 73,000 employees had submitted test results and about 30% of students, said interim Supt. Megan Reilly, who visited Cochrane Middle School in Arlington Heights on Friday for the distribution of free test kits provided by the state. On Monday, Reilly required all students and staff to provide test results before returning to campus, and the district’s coronavirus testing sites have been open all week.

“We’re trying to do as much as possible to ensure we maintain the highest safety standards in our schools,” she said. “We keep our schools safer than the general public. As far as I’m concerned, I want everyone back in school.”

Montebello interim Supt. Mark Skvarna said he, too, wants all students in school but has health and logistical concerns. He worries that he may have only 30 substitute teachers available — instead of a normal 250 or so — and expects high absence rates among teachers and students, who must stay home if they test positive.

He said he decided that it is better to wait a week and add the days back later than to provide an inferior education experience and risk further transmission at the peak of the Omicron variant surge.

On Friday he posted a video message to parents.

“We’re really deeply concerned that not just having the students be ill with the virus, that having a lack of teachers in the classroom makes this problem a little bit more of something that we need to deal with immediately,” he told them. “The biggest priority of this Board of Education and the superintendent of this district is to protect the students and keep them safe — much the same as what you do as a parent.”

Like Montebello, the Vaughn K-12 charter group, which serves the Pacoima area, serves mainly Latino students from low-income families — a group hit hard by the pandemic.

“We have been monitoring the data, and the data in our area is scary,” Vaughn Chief Executive Fidel Ramirez said. “Even then, we were ready to pick up our sleeves and do what we do best, but a pattern developed.”

Vaughn, like L.A. Unified, required testing of students and staff. Early in the week, the number of infected students rose past 60 — updated lab results are pending. Among staff, 14% have tested positive.

Vaughn has an extended school year, which Ramirez hoped would help students catch up from pandemic-related learning delays. He still hopes for that, but for two weeks the effort will continue online. Students who don’t already have computers can pick them up early next week — at the same time, free food will be provided.

Teachers will instruct online from their empty classrooms. If they are healthy, teachers isolating at home also might be able to help during this temporary return to remote learning.

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