LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday that just about every student in the district has the tools they need for online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting special courses that will be available for students during summer school.
Beutner acknowledged that it was a rough start making sure that all students had proper software and hardware to be able to participate in distance learning since schools shuttered in March. This includes iPads and proper internet connection.
“It took a procurement team working around the clock to scour the globe and find devices and a technology team to make sure the devices had the proper software installed and every student was connected to the internet,” Beutner said. “If the transition to online learning is our moonshot, the rocket’s been built and lift off has occurred. We’re in the early days of an extraordinary voyage.”
The superintendent noted that educators are continuing to master teaching technologies so they can help their students learn online.
For the first time, summer school will be available to every student in the district. Beutner announced “exciting” new courses when summer learning starts on June 24.
The animation studio Illumination will show students how an animated film gets made and will help them learn how to draw and animate their own stories.
High school students will be able to learn about underwater exploration through “Voyage of the Titanic” with award-winning director James Cameron.
The Los Angeles Chargers will participate in a class on the science, nutrition and medicine of sports.
The Columbia Memorial Space Center will help students explore space and learn about astronomy and space technology.
The district is partnering up with Fender to provide up to 1,500 middle school students with the opportunity to learn how to play the guitar or ukulele.
During his briefing Monday, Beutner also highlighted that the Los Angeles Unified School District is one of the first school districts to create an online setting for students in special education, referred to as their “individualized education program.” He said educators have created more than 1,000 virtual IEPs by first focusing on students in transition years, those entering kindergarten and moving into middle or high school.
The briefing came as Beutner told the Los Angeles Times that reopening schools will be complicated and expensive.
He had announced that the next school year will likely start on Aug. 18, but it remains unclear if classrooms will be open by then. The district is working with state and local officials, as well as experts at UCLA, to devise protocols for reopening that may include making sure students and parents are tested and that children have multiple masks.
Despite budget uncertainties, Beutner said the district will continue to provide meals through its food distribution program, which by this week will have provided more than 20 million meals
to children and adults in need.
But Beutner told the Times that it is wrong for government agencies to rely on the district to pay for feeding the community. During his address, the superintendent warned that cuts to schools will directly impact students and their future.
“Children will suffer the harm most directly, as will society as a whole, over the long term,” Beutner said. “I don’t have the answers and expect many federal and state leaders do not yet either. But as I reflect on the last two months and what has been accomplished in schools, we have found a way to do extraordinary things to help students continue to learn and provide a safety net for those most in need. As a state and as a nation, it’s time we find a way to do extraordinary things to make sure we deliver on the promise of a great education for every child in public schools.”