Students and teachers in the nation’s second-largest school district will remain out of their classrooms until at least May 1, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday morning.
Los Angeles Unified’s initial closure began on March 16 and was announced during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak in California. It was expected to last two weeks.
Now, the district’s more than 670,000 students will remain out of school for at least five additional weeks. That’s significantly less, however, than what Gov. Gavin Newsom predicted last week when he said he expected California schools wouldn’t reopen before summer break.
At a news conference announcing the extended closure, Beutner said he wished he could tell the LAUSD community everything would be “back to normal” soon.
“It does not look like that will be the case,” Beutner said.
“These are uncertain, even frightening times, particularly for children,” he said. “The old saying, ‘you don’t realize how important something is until it’s not there,’ has never been more true as we find the essential role schools play in our lives has been dramatically altered.”
To help navigate the extended closure, Beutner announced an emergency investment of $100 million to provide devices for all students in the district, and a partnership with Verizon to provide free wireless internet access for students who don’t have it.
The superintendent said that LAUSD officials will continue to work with state and local health authorities to consider what is best for students amid the ongoing crisis.
Schoolwork has been transitioned to online and television formats to allow students to continue to learn during the shut down.
Beutner admitted that LAUSD “can do better” for students. He explained that about half of students are continuing to learn at the pace they had been while at school, while a quarter are doing “OK,” and the other quarter are not “getting the learning opportunity they should be,” due to lack of internet access or other learning tools.
The emergency funds will work to close that gap, Beautner explained.
“This is an unprecedented commitment, but a necessary one,” the superintendent said of the $100 million investment. “Many of our families are struggling to make ends meet and cannot afford to do this on their own -– but their children deserve the same opportunity those in more affluent communities have.”
Beutner said the district is dedicated to making sure teachers, as well as students and families, are sufficiently trained on online teaching resources.
The superintendent announced that students will have independent learning days so teachers can get familiarize themselves with online training and continue to build their lesson plans. Help desks will be created to answer students’ and families’ questions regrading online learning.
The school district has also opened dozens of food distribution centers in order to provide meals to students who would regularly eat at school during the day. Beutner said those “Grab n Go” centers will continue to operate.
A charitable fund has been created to support local food efforts and to provide supplies and learning materials to students who do not have them.
As officials continue to improve online learning on other responses to the coronavirus, the district set up an email address and is taking suggestions from the public: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the time since the schools closed, Newsom has placed the entire state under a “Stay at Home” order, in which residents are supposed to stay in their homes as much as possible and leave only for essential needs.