L.A. Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner greets returning students this week at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in North Hollywood.
Thirteen months after the start of the coronavirus quarantine, L.A. Unified students are starting to return to campus this week, and other local districts are following suit. But it will take a big commitment, and a big investment, to get schools and students back on track, according to Austin Beutner, superintendent of Los Angeles Unified.
“Reopening of schools is not a simple exercise,” Beutner said. “COVID safety protocols and testing, class schedules and lesson plans, after-school programs, transportation, meals and much more all need to come together.”
“It’s heartening to see our students back on campus after this difficult quarantine,” said Maryjane Puffer, executive director of The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health. ”We must do everything we can to help them recover what they’ve lost in academics and healthcare.”
This week 72 early education and elementary schools are re-opening for families who have selected in-person learning. The remaining early education and elementary schools will open next week, and middle and high schools will reopen the week of April 26.
Students and staff are required to take a COVID test before returning to school. L.A. Unified provides testing sites and locations for students and families to obtain a test. The testing hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until April 25. Visit the testing website or call the Family Hotline at 213-443-1300 to schedule an appointment.
Closing opportunity gaps
“The opportunity gaps for students from families who are struggling to get by will only worsen if they’re not back in schools with their peers from more affluent neighborhoods,” Beutner said in a video update to the LAUSD community.
“It’s simple enough to see the solution — providing vaccinations for families with children in schools is the single most important thing we can do to get more children back in school classrooms.” L.A. Unified has partnered with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Northeast Community Clinics to provide 25 school-based vaccination centers.
An unprecedented investment from the state and federal governments in public schools are invested in services for mental, student disabilities, and proper sterilization of LAUSD campuses for the 2021-22 school year, the superintendent reported.
Beutner said, “$170 million will provide more mental health counselors at schools to help students process the anxiety and trauma of the past year… $140 million investment will update Individualized Education Programs and provide more direct services to students. To help keep schools clean and safe, we’ll invest an additional $220 million in custodial staff, cleaning supplies, upgraded facilities and COVID testing.”
One challenge: While L.A. Unified saw the same proportion of graduates enrolling in four-year colleges, there was a 9% drop in those who enrolled in two-year colleges. This issue is most acute in lower-income communities.