Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent Austin Beutner announced that all schools will remain closed until at least May 1.
“These are uncertain, even frightening times, particularly for children and we can take comfort knowing that we’re in this together, all one community,” Beutner said in a video statement posted on the LAUSD website March 23.
Beutner made the announcement in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. In what was originally planned to be a two-week shutdown that began on March 16, students made the switch to online learning. Teachers are expected to be back on campus May 4 and students are expected to be back and learning in the classrooms on May 5.
“I’m not a big fan of school being closed because if I’m at home, I want to sleep and do everything else that’s not homework,” sophomore Annabella Powell said. “I miss my friends.”
This new transition to remote learning has prompted LAUSD to provide laptops or tablets and internet access to the students who do not have them at home. Each week, students are virtually meeting with their teachers to check-in and do work. Beutner mentioned that LAUSD has reached an agreement with Verizon to provide free wireless internet access for all students in LAUSD who need it. Spectrum has provided free internet as well.
In the video statement, Beutner briefly talked about the graduating senior class of 2020. He explained that they will do their best to prepare them for the next chapter in their lives. Along with finding a way to celebrate their hard work and all that they have accomplished.
In an effort to close “the great big digital divide” with online learning, LAUSD has authorized an emergency investment of $100 million dollars to get the resources needed to help students continue their education. They will provide laptops, internet connection and training to students, teachers and families to help them navigate online learning.
Beutner also acknowledges the difficulty some families may have during this time with assisting their child on school work all day. The online platforms Schoology, Edgenuity and Zoom are currently ways students and teachers are communicating. He mentions that they need to train their teachers, students and families so that they feel comfortable using these platforms.
“It will affect my learning because I don’t get the interactive learning experience and support I would get from my teacher and class,” Powell said.
There are currently 60 “Grab & Go” food centers operating in the communities that LAUSD serves. Due to high demand, the centers have expanded their hours from 7 to 11 a.m. LAUSD employees and volunteers from the Red Cross are helping run these centers along with World Central Kitchen, Chef Jose Andres and Snap Inc. Uber is also offering discounted trips for families that are traveling to one of these centers.
Last Friday, these centers served almost a quarter of a million meals and have helped more people than any other food bank in the country. A charitable foundation has been set up to help support their food efforts and to provide critical supplies and learning materials to students who do not have them. Beginning March 23, LAUSD began providing meals to the eight temporary homeless shelters that the city of Los Angeles has recently opened.
“All this is just a start. We know more is needed and we’re working with city, county. state and federal officials to provide additional, much needed, service to those most in need,” Beutner said.
All LAUSD employees will continue to get paid during this time. They have also set up an email address where people are welcome to provide their thoughts and ideas with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“In ordinary times, our focus is on three things: To help students learn, provide support to students and families most in need and taking care of all teachers and staff in schools who make possible the learning and support,” Beutner said. “Even in these extraordinary times, these are still our goals.”