Calling the effort akin to trying to land on the moon, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday the district is still trying to iron out issues with transitioning students to online learning at home due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s clear that normal is not returning anytime soon. That should be obvious to all of us,” Beutner said. “But that statement raises more questions for schools than it answers. … We know it’s difficult to juggle home schooling while also dealing with the disruption this crisis is causing in your lives.”
LAUSD students are on spring break this week but are expected to return to their online classes next Monday. Beutner said would provide updates for the rest of the school year next week, including graduation and summer schedules. County and state education officials have indicated school campuses across the state will remain shuttered for the rest of the school year, but LAUSD officials have not yet updated their future plans.
“There’s no substitute for learning in a school setting, but the investment in the digital future of all students will help make sure there’s opportunities to match the talent we know is in every student in every classroom,” Beutner said.
Beutner said it will likely take until May to get needed technology to all of its students so they can participate in online learning. He said the task of transitioning to online learning is akin to landing on the moon. He also noted that the district started the effort with a disadvantage due to what he called chronic underfunding.
He said about $17,000 in funding is invested in each LAUSD student, compared to $50,000 for private-school students.
The school district partnered with Verizon recently to purchase $100 million in computers and Wi-Fi infrastructure, especially for students and families that cannot afford the technology.
Beutner said last week that out of about 120,000 high school students, roughly 15,000 had no online contact with their classrooms since schools were closed about three weeks ago, and only about 68% of all high school students were participating in studies online, meaning about 40,000 were not, he said.
He tried to couch some of those numbers Monday, noting it is difficult to fully track students’ participation in classroom activities — pointing out that a student might not log onto a computer while reading an assigned book or doing other type of offline work.
Beutner said LAUSD has been working with a tech company to try to expand the number of students who can access certain learning platforms, since the district’s computers were not originally designed to withstand hundreds of thousands of people on them at once.
Beutner said elementary school students will miss the classroom setting the most as they learn how to read and solve math problems — as well as how to make friends.
“We’re already planning for major new efforts to address the needs for elementary school students when we’re able to return to schools,” Beutner said. “In the interim, I hope we can find a way to help restore the human connection for all of our students.”
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