Nearly half a million Los Angeles children and teenagers are streaming into more than 1,000 public campuses for a new school year Tuesday morning, many carrying burdens from their world outside the schoolyard gates: homelessness, malnutrition, and difficulties at home that lead to chronic absenteeism.
Yet on this first day of school the outside world also is bringing in a modicum of help aimed at chipping away problems that deeply affect learning. Although Los Angeles Unified School District leaders say students need exponentially more assistance to succeed, they are intent on targeting aid to help meet the basic needs of the most deprived students. In addition, the district is focused on developing more programs to fill in academic gaps, develop life skills and help parents better navigate an often frustrating school system bureaucracy.
The nation’s second-largest school district planned to highlight some of these efforts on the first day back.
At Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima, a renovated wellness clinic could help the one in four students who are homeless. At Van Deene Elementary in West Carson, staff is focused on reducing chronic absenteeism after outside activists pressured the district. At Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes, parents are taking advantage of new rules that encourage their involvement, and at Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts downtown, a bank has funded a high-school wide effort to teach the important life skill of money management.
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