Children continued their return to Los Angeles Unified campuses Monday, with all remaining elementary and early education centers set to open this week, with middle and high schools following next week.
“For over a year the halls have been empty and the playgrounds barren. There is no better sound than that of children at school, and that sound is back in schools throughout Los Angeles Unified,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday.
“The joy on the faces of students, staff and families — evident even from behind their masks — made the previous 411 days feel like a distant memory, if only for a moment,” he said.
In the LAUSD, 61 elementary schools and 11 early education centers began welcoming students back to the classroom last week for the first time in about 14 months.
Most of California’s 6.1 million students in 1,037 public school districts have been learning from home since last March because of the pandemic. Now that they’re being welcomed back to the classroom, coronavirus countermeasures at schools include free testing for students and staff on site each week. The district also is operating school-based vaccination centers to serve the families of LAUSD students.
Still, many parents have opted to keep their kids learning from home due to safety or other concerns.
A survey of LAUSD families showed that 49% of elementary school parents wanted their kids to return to the classroom. At the high school level, only 25% of families who participated in the survey said they’ll return their students to campuses; and 35% of middle school families said they’ll come back to the classroom.
Due to the extra expenses the district is undertaking to keep schools safe, Beutner said the district plans to spend more than $21,000 per student, which is going to require federal and local support.
Another funding source could be the sale of some LAUSD real estate.
District officials are in a process of decentralization and evaluation of LAUSD administrative sites, including the 900,000-square-foot headquarters on Beaudry Avenue, Beutner said. Los Angeles Unified also owns 18 acres of valuable land on San Pedro Street downtown, which is currently used primarily to park and service a portion of the school bus fleet.
“The land is quite valuable and could be redeveloped as office space or housing and it may be possible the fleet operations can be moved to less expensive sites or buses parked on publicly owned rights of ways like utility transmission corridors,” Beutner said.
He noted that, through a combination of remote work and relocation to an office closer to where they live and work, various LAUSD employees may benefit from shorter commutes as well as quicker access and closer connections to the schools they support. And, the substantial money saved could be spent directly on students.
“We’ve been working for more than two years to put schools and their students back at the center of all we do and this is another step in that process,” Beutner said.
In the meantime, Los Angeles Unified COVID-19 testing centers are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. For details, call the Family Hotline at 213-443-1300. For details about receiving a free vaccination at a school, the Family Vaccination Hotline is 213-328-3958.
Now that schools are reopening, LAUSD’s Grab & Go Food Centers closed last week. Food relief remains available at schools for children every weekday, for students studying in-person or online. Adults who are still in need of food assistance may visit the LAUSD website for more information about alternative sites for food assistance.
Specific dates for the reopening of individual schools can be found on Los Angeles Unified’s website or individual school websites.