2nd largest school district in the U.S. releases plans for start of new school year

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FILE – In this July 17, 2020, file photo, the cafeteria area of an elementary school is seen through a fence in Los Angeles. Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said public and private K-12 schools would remain shuttered so long as the counties where they are located remain on a state monitoring list for the coronavirus. But he also said superintendents could submit waiver requests for elementary schools to reopen sooner. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

LOS ANGELES (News Nation/KTLA) — The Los Angeles Unified School District on Monday unveiled its plans for start of the new school year, which is just two weeks away.

With instruction set to resume on Aug. 18, the nation’s second-largest district will continue to hold classes online indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic, extending the longest closure in recent history.

“The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise on,” LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner emphasized at a news conference Monday.

The district’s objectives, he said, are to balance the educational needs of students with the impact the virus is having on working families, while simultaneously ensuring everyone in the school’s community is protected.

That includes not just meeting the educational needs of students, but also keeping children and their families safe by providing them with nutrition, mental health resource and child care.

To start the 2020-2021 academic year, students will have a regular schedule with daily, live engagement when the semester starts online, according to LAUSD’s plan. Attendance will now be taken each day, as opposed to spring and summer distance learning sessions, when it was tracked by log-ins.

The improved and more structured online learning model includes small group instruction, with increased interaction between teachers and students, as well as assessments on progress.

“Learning is cumulative and it’s imperative we focus on our young learners,” Buetner said. “The virus has made the need even more acute as we know those learning to read, students learning English, students with differences or disabilities are most impacted by the absence from schools and the challenges online learning present.”

To ensure students don’t fall back in their education, LAUSD is offering extra support, such as tutoring by appointment as well as on Saturdays, where possible. There will also be targeted intervention for certain subjects like English language arts and math.

LAUSD is addressing the digital divide by ensuring all students have proper devices, internet and instruction materials. Accordingly, the district will work to repair or replace broken devices, and a phone hotline will be available for technological issues.

While school is set to resume on Aug. 18, the first two days will be set aside for orientation and the distribution of devices, textbooks and instructional materials.

In addition, LAUSD released several sample schedules and examples of lesson plans.

“The operational pieces to support this teacher-student interaction will continue to be improved — whether it’s the ability to conduct an IEP online so a student’s needs can be identified and met or redeploying bus drivers to support online instruction, it’s all hands on deck at schools to support students,” Buetner said.

California has laid out a set of guidelines for schools to resume classes, allowing only those in counties that have been off the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list for two consecutive weeks to hold in-person instruction.

The guidance, unveiled by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month, would essentially preclude most schools in Southern California from reopening — including L.A. County, which has been on California’s watchlist since June 5.

However, elementary schools can apply for waivers to reopen campuses. The waivers can be requested from the county health department by district superintendents, school boards or school directors — provided parents, labor organizations and community-based partners are on board, according to Newsom.

If approved, the schools would have to follow rules set out by the state to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including required masks for all staff and students in grades three and above, mandatory temperature checks and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet apart. Younger children would be encouraged to wear face shields.

LAUSD already has a plan in place should the health department allow in-person instruction to resume. If that happens, the district will implement a hybrid-learning schedule that alternates between onsite and online instruction, with staggered start times and classrooms reduced to half of their normal capacities for those back on campus.

Under the hybrid model, pre-kindergarten and elementary school students will be divided into AM and PM cohorts. Secondary school students, meanwhile, will switch between remote and in-person instruction.

In addition to health and screening measures outlined by the state, LAUSD would also have one-way direction in hallways, and enhanced disinfecting and cleaning measures, among other things.

“Our goal is to have students back in schools as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so,” Beutner said.

The district’s full 41-page plan can be found here.

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