A team of Pillsbury lawyers is advising the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school district in the United States, on all facets of an ambitious COVID-19 testing program designed to get 700,000 students and 75,000 staff back in the classroom, where they learn and teach best. According to the New York Times, “it appears to be the most ambitious testing initiative so far among major public school districts, most of which are also starting school remotely but have yet to announce detailed testing plans.”

Testing under the program began the week of August 17 while LAUSD awaits permission from public health authorities to resume in-person education. Initial tests were limited to 42 facilities across the school district, focusing on a smaller population of LAUSD teachers and other employees working from sanitized school facilities, as well as approximately 2,000 children enrolled at school-based day care programs by LAUSD employees.

The year-long program, which could eventually serve as a national model, will slowly expand to entail COVID-19 testing for all Los Angeles schools students and employees – a population larger than most cities and public or private companies. LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner noted that the initiative will likely exceed efforts by the city and county of Los Angeles, adding that “extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.”

Beutner is leading the initiative with Obama administration education secretary Arne Duncan, who will coordinate with all pertinent government agencies as required. Meanwhile, Microsoft has developed an app for the district to help manage self-screening, tracking and record-keeping, and researchers at Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Los Angeles, will conduct analysis and epidemiological modeling. Testing companies Clinical Reference Laboratory of Kansas and Bay Area startup SummerBio, among others, will supply and process the COVID-19 tests themselves.

“The opportunity to use testing to get ahead of the virus was missed in January and again in May due to a lack of capacity,” Mr. Beutner stated. “We must be ready with a robust system of testing and contact tracing so the third time can be the charm.”