LOS ANGELES - For the first time in more than a year, some Los Angeles Unified schools reopened for in-person classes Tuesday, amid rigorous safety standards and upgraded campus sanitation measures, although many parents are opting to keep their kids learning from home.
Coronavirus countermeasures at schools include free testing for students and staff on-site each week at all 61 elementary schools and 11 early education enters set to open in stages starting this week. The remaining elementary schools and early education centers will open the week of April 19, and middle and high schools will open the week of April 26.
"Our commitment has always been to reopen schools in the safest way possible and this very deliberate approach will help us to do so," LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said. "This is an extraordinary undertaking -- making sure every student is tested for COVID before they return to school and every week thereafter. Los Angeles Unified is by far the largest school district in the nation to establish this standard for school safety. There are bound to be a few bumps in the road, but once it's in place it'll be worth it. It's all part of our commitment to create the safest possible school environment."
All students who return to campus for in-person learning must receive a test the week prior to their school opening. For students starting school this week, Beutner said Monday morning that it's not too late to be tested
Reopenings will be rolled out at each school over several days, starting with the youngest students. Kindergarten and first-grade students will return to school Tuesday; grades 2 and 3 on Wednesday; and 4th and 5th graders on Thursday.
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. Long Beach, Glendale, Downey and Manhattan Beach unified school districts are among those ahead of LAUSD, already welcoming back some students, with most schools operating on a limited schedule and prioritizing the youngest students.
LAUSD's reopened elementary schools will offer three hours of focused work in literacy, math, science and social studies, as well as recess and lunch, in addition to homework help and enrichment activities such as painting, dance and yoga.
Families also may choose to continue online learning rather than going back to the classroom, and many have been hesitant to return their children to schools.
As of last week, a survey of LAUSD families showed that 49% of elementary school parents want their kids to return to the classroom, with about three-quarters of responses in. Those who don't participate in the survey will remain in online instruction.
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.
"Our goal isn't just to reopen schools -- it's to make sure we can open them in the safest way possible with all students there. Many families who have chosen to remain in online instruction tell us their primary concern is that their child might go to school and, however, remote the possibility, bring the virus home to a family member in a multi-generational household," Beutner said.
To help expedite the return to in-person instruction, the district will be operating 25 school-based vaccination centers to serve families of LAUSD students. It also has been operating a large-scale vaccination site for education workers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
The first school-based sites for families will opened last week at Washington Preparatory and Lincoln High Schools in collaboration with St. John's Well Child and Family Center, and at Gage Middle School with the help of Northeast Community Clinics.
"The expansion of this effort to 25 school sites from just two we announced a week ago is made possible through a partnership with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Northeast Community Clinics," Beutner said. "We share a common goal to make sure all families with children in schools receive access to vaccinations to help their children return to school in the safest way possible."
In the coming school year, Beutner noted, the district plans to spend more than $21,000 per student, which is going to require federal and local support.
"It's important to note it will take a collective effort including businesses, philanthropic and community organizations and all levels of government to help students recover and continue their progress," he said.
For details about receiving a free vaccination at a school, the Family Vaccination Hotline is 213-328-3958.
Los Angeles Unified 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.
LAUSD's food distribution programs also will continue for those quarantined at home due to the virus or experiencing food or housing insecurity, with details available at lastudentsmostinneed.org.
Specific dates for the reopening of individual schools can be found on Los Angeles Unified's website or individual school websites.