LAUSD, other SoCal districts to shutter schools starting Monday over coronavirus concerns

Coronavirus
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The coronavirus pandemic has prompted officials a number of Southern California schools to shut down beginning Monday in hopes of slowing the outbreak.

Among those involved in the closure is the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school district.

The decision, which was announced after a closed-door meeting, was announced jointly on Friday morning with the San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest district in California.

The action was unanimously approved by both school boards, according to a joint statement from both districts, which together serves 750,000 students.

"California has now entered a critical new phase in the fight to stop the spread of the
Covid-19 pandemic,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and San Diego Superintendent Cindy Martin said in a joint statement. “There is evidence the virus is already present in the communities we serve, and our efforts now must be aimed at preventing its spread. We
believe closing the state’s two largest school districts will make an important contribution to the effort."

The LAUSD closure will last at least two weeks "while we evaluate the appropriate path forward," Buetner said in a separate email to employees.

More information would be provided to students, parents and staff later in the day, according to the statement.

The district already had a contingency plan in place for virtual learning that involved partnering with public media stations to provide educational content to students.

KCET will distribute high school level content, while KLCS will provide programming for grade levels three to eight. PBS and SoCal KOCE will air preschool through second grade content.

For families who need childcare during the shut down, LAUSD will be opening 40 family resource centers, according to Buetner's email.

The centers, slated to open Wednesday, will be staffed with trained professionals, he said. The hours of operation will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Beutner previously tweeted a coronavirus update Thursday night, reminding the public that no known cases of coronavirus have been reported in LAUSD schools.

Schools were operating on a normal schedule Friday with the following modifications:

  • All large student and staff gatherings have been canceled.
  • Student events and competitions are continuing, but without spectators.
  • All outside organizational use of school facilities have been canceled.
  • Anyone who traveled outside the country in the past 14 days is not allowed on campuses or administrative offices.

LAUSD's meeting was held one day after the Los Angeles teachers’ union called on officials to close the schools.

“We expected the district to close schools within L.A. rapidly. And in a very accelerated way. And in a very humane way,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said.

LAUSD is the county's second-largest employer, according to a district information sheet.

It is also responsible for more than 500,000 K-12 students, about 80% of whom rely on the district for free or reduced lunches.

“They’re relying on us for meals, for childcare,” school board member Nick Melvoin told the Times Thursday afternoon.

Other SoCal districts close schools

Numerous other Southern California school districts had already announced they were closing campuses beginning next week. They include:

South Pasadena Unified School District posted on its website that classes will be canceled between March 16 and March 27.

The Long Beach Unified School District also made the decision to close schools beginning March 16 with classes set to resume on April 20.

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District, El Segundo Unified School District and Hermosa Beach City School District will each close its campuses on March 16 and move to a virtual learning environment.

Torrance Unified School District campuses will also close for two weeks starting on Monday, while schools in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District will be closed from March 13 through April 6.

The Glendale Unified School District announced it would extend spring break through March 27, then continue with a "remote learning model" through April 3.

The Simi Valley Unified and Moorpark Unified school districts in Ventura County will also be closed from March 16 to March 27. Oak Park Unified School District, also in Ventura County, announced that schools will close from March 16 to March 20.

Several districts in the Santa Clarita Valley -- including the Newhall School District, the Saugus Union School District and the William S. Hart Unified High School District -- will be closed for three weeks beginning March 16. Classes are scheduled to resume on campus on April 13, after Spring Break.

The Castaic Unified School District also said its campuses will be shut down for at least three weeks starting March 16.

Aspire Public Schools, which has campuses in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and the Central Valley, is also closing on Monday, according to its website.

Aspire teaches 17,000 students in the Los Angeles area and will stay closed until April 10, the website stated.

After LAUSD announced its closure, many other districts began following suit. They included Irvine Unified, Orange Unified, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified, Corona-Norco Unified, Ventura Unified and Pomona Unified.

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