LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Unified School District campuses will remain closed until at least May 1, Superintendent Austin Beutner told parents Monday, while also announcing a partnership with the San Diego school system to call for a "coordinated state response" to help districts affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Beutner also announced a $100 million emergency agreement with Verizon Wireless that will provide free internet to students whose families cannot afford such infrastructure. Beutner said the school district will also provide training for all students, teachers and families on how to use the educational devices such as Schoology and communications technologies like Zoom and Google Meet Up.
In a message to parents, Beutner said that while school closures will continue through May 1, the future beyond that still remains uncertain.
"This past week marks the start of a new chapter for all who are part of our school community," Beutner said of the school closures, which were originally planned only through the end of March. "Students are learning in different ways, teachers are teaching in different ways and families are struggling to support their children in their studies while balancing other responsibilities.
"I wish I could tell you it will all be back to normal sometime soon, but it does not look like that will be the case," according to Beutner.
Beutner said the district estimates about half of its students are continuing to learn at the pace they had been at school, with a quarter doing "okay," but additional work is needed to make sure students are getting the full benefit of learning.
He said LAUSD estimates about one-quarter of its students aren't getting the education they need because of a lack of resources.
The focus for LAUSD's elementary school students will be foundational learning like literacy, math and critical thinking. Some courses taught in high schools settings such as science labs and physical education will need to be changed, Beutner said.
"It's not reasonable for students or educators, nor is it sound educational practice, ... to spend six hours a day in online, two-way communication," Beutner said. "Families who are struggling to get by in this crisis may not be able to spend all day trying to help their children do schoolwork."
Beutner said over the next few weeks, students will be able to continue to learn independently while their teachers work on preparing instruction plans. A week of spring break is also planned, April 6-10, to give families time to recharge for the work ahead, the superintendent said.
A schedule for each of the days through May 1 has been posted on to the LAUSD website, lausd.net, and details will be provided soon on how the technology will be distributed to students.
The district is also continuing to provide hundreds of thousands of meals for families. Beutner said on an average day, LAUSD provides about 1 million meals to students.
LAUSD is operating 60 Grab-n-Go Food Centers at schools in the communities it serves to provide meals to those in need, with help from district employees and volunteers from the Red Cross. Others have joined to help, including chef Jose Andres and World Central Kitchen and Snap Inc.
People who want to donate to the food program and find more information can visit LAStudentsMostinNeed.org.
On Friday, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo recommended that campuses remain off limits until May 5.
"In the interest of public safety and the health of our children and most vulnerable community members, we are asking our 80 school districts to remain closed with students returning on May 5," Duardo said in a statement Friday. "School closures will help prevent transmission of their staff, students and families for all that they are doing to ensure that learning continues and that vital nutrition and meal services are provided."
The Long Beach Unified School District quickly announced Friday it was adhering to the recommendation. In Industry, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District said it would extend its coronavirus-related hiatus until May 5.
Beutner and San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten on Monday made a joint plea to the state Legislature asking for financial assistance from the state, calling the coronavirus crisis "the largest adaptive challenge for large urban public education systems in a generation."
"Pick your metaphor: This is the moon shot, the Manhattan Project, the Normandy landing, and the Marshall Plan, and the clock is ticking," the superintendents wrote in a joint letter to state legislators. The leaders noted that their two districts collectively include 750,000 students.
"Knowing the incredible sacrifices our teachers and support staff have made already, it is time to acknowledge that much work lies ahead," according to their letter. "Our schools and families have met this challenge so far with determination, but our students deserve much more, and we want to work with our legislative leaders to ensure each and every student can continue his or her academic journey."
On March 13, LA Unified and the San Diego Unified School District issued a joint announcement that the respective districts' schools would close to slow the outbreak of the coronavirus.
San Diego Unified initially said it planned to reopen its schools on April 6, pending a change in the conditions.