What LAUSD parents can expect when school starts next week
When school resumes next week for her two children, Maricelia Carmona will be juggling more than ever before. Both she and her husband need to leave the house each day for work, and her daughter, 8, and son, 12, first report to teachers Aug. 18 in Los Angeles Unified School District.
“As a family it’s been really hard,” said Carmona, who lives in South L.A. “I think that’s an understatement.”
Her situation is by no means unique among the hundreds of thousands of parents in Los Angeles adapting to the prospects of a new school year that will begin entirely online, with students reporting to kitchen tables and work spaces at home rather than classrooms — while many parents manage their own full-time jobs.
The LAUSD Board of Education unanimously approved Tuesday, Aug 11, a tentative agreement on distance-learning guidelines with the union representing teachers. The agreement dictates just what is required of teachers and the district when virtual schooling resumes next week.
“What we’re trying to do is preserve and maintain an essential piece of public education which is serving all students,” said Superintendent Austin Beutner on Tuesday. “I’ll be the first to admit it’s not perfect, but in the midst of a pandemic, perfection has never been our goal. We are doing the best we can.”
Members of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents roughly 30,000 teachers throughout the district, must vote on the agreement by 5 p.m. Aug. 14. With endorsements already issued by union leaders following weeks of negotiations, the deal is widely expected to pass.
What parents and students need to know
The beginning of the school year will be unlike any in the history of education. Campuses will be closed, though some administrators will be on site and teachers will have the option of using their classroom if they choose.
LAUSD students need to sign in beginning Tuesday, Aug 18, though full instruction will start Thursday, Aug. 20. At times teachers will conduct sessions in real-time and other times through assignments working independently or in small groups.
District teachers will begin reporting for work on Aug 17 for two days of preparation and planning. The afternoon of Aug. 18 will be used for making initial contact with students and families, based on the tentative agreement announced Aug. 3.
Unlike in the spring when grades were put aside, grades will be issued for online classes this fall.
Superintendent Austin Beutner, in remarks Monday, Aug. 10, said the district intended to improve greatly upon its distance-learning performance in the spring. Surveys by the district showed that on average 40% of secondary school students were absent each day from the district’s online platform Schoology.
“We’ve learned a good deal about online education since March and it’s clear there is a need for more one-on-one support for students,” Beutner said. “The individual attention a teacher can provide to a student in a classroom at a school is not easily replicated in a Zoom class with 20 or 30 students.”
One of the biggest challenges for parents such as Carmona is how to make her kids treat their online education with the same level of attention they commit while in the classroom.
Carmona is taking three days off next week just to get to get her kids prepared.
“I do need to get my kids situated and I need to train them,” she said.
Part of the difficulty comes down to maintaining consistent routines, which even adults are struggling with during the pandemic.
“As adults, this whole COVID-19 thing has thrown us off,” Carmona said. “Sometimes I don’t even know what day it is. If I don’t know what day of the week it is, I can’t imagine how kids feel.”
Live online instruction — known as synchronous distance learning — is one way to keep students engaged. Between 90 to 150 minutes per day of such learning, depending on the grade level, is required.
Each school day will run from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. to provide consistency and resemble a normal school day with set periods. The first full week of school, Aug. 20 to Aug. 28, will be used to help teachers get comfortable with students and the online format.
Included in the schedule for grades 6-12 is time for advisors to provide emotional and social support. For Carmona and many others, a big concern is her kids’ mental health.
“There is going to be some effects,” she said.
By the time she gets off work, Carmona plans to head straight home to take her kids for a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air and exercise.
“I just don’t think it’s healthy for them to be cooped up,” Carmona said.
The longer students stay at home, the more stress will befall families. Over the summer, Carmona’s mother mostly watched the kids, but she’s unfamiliar with technology. “She said she hardly knows how to use her own phone, so how can she help the kids?” Carmona said.
So Carmona will rely on her older children, ages 20 and 22, both out of work due to the pandemic, to help monitor the two young ones as they navigate their new online schedule.
The district has made every effort to provide every student a Chromebook or tablet — and telecommunication companies such as AT&T and Verizon have made offers of free internet access for students.
However, some students still do not have access to technology and high-speed internet. Families who are still in need of technology are urged to call 213-443-1300.
An unscientific survey of 430 LAUSD parents by the pro-charter school group Speak Up, found 20% of families were not connected, though low-income families were disproportionately affected by high internet bills or the lack of personal devices.
More than 90% of parents in the survey of English learners, special education students, as well as low income and minority families, said parent technology training was a top priority.
When the new school year starts, Beutner promised the district will provide one-on-one tutoring both in person and online for students most in need, with teachers and principals referring students.
Campuses will remain closed to students until the number of new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks falls below 100 per 100,000 people, based on one metric set by the state. Grade schools will be able to apply for waivers when cases drop below 200 per 100,000 people in the past two weeks.
The state has suspended its reporting as it sorts out delays in getting lab tests. Last week, L.A. County had roughly 350 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks. Nearly 10% of all coronavirus cases in L.A. County, more than 20,000 cases, were now reported among those under 18 years old.
More information for parents:
- For parents who want to stay up to date on their child’s progress, they can log onto the district’s Parent Portal at LAUSD.net.
- Further enrichment opportunities can be found at the district’s Youtube channel called Los Angeles Unified – A World of Learning.
- More videos helpful for students are available through PBS SoCal, KCET and KLCS-TV with listings provided on the district’s website.
- Additional resources are available at LAUSD.net/onlinelearning