LAUSD offering limited in-person small group classes for high-need students

While campuses remain closed to most Los Angeles Unified students, district officials Monday announced plans to provide in-person instruction to small groups of students most in need as well as outdoor conditioning for athletes.

"While educators in schools are trying their best to help students continue to learn online, we know the best learning takes place at schools," LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said. "And for certain types of students --  early learners, students learning English, students with differences and disabilities and those who were struggling before school facilities closed  -- the absence from school has made the challenges even greater."

So until all students are back at school, the superintendent said the district this week will expand its offerings for high-needs families with individual and small group support, from TK to 12th grade, with up to three students in a group, under strict health practices.

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It's an effort to combat lower attendance in virtual classrooms and the higher number of students with failing grades, especially among high-need students, Beutner said.

"The attendance figures and interim assessments don't reflect the efforts of educators. Principals, teachers and all in schools are working their tails off. Extraordinary things are happening in classrooms," he said. "But the simple fact is some students are struggling online. It's not their fault, their families' fault or their teacher's fault. The students need to be in a school where they can learn best."

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the district's teachers, announced earlier this month an agreement for instructors to voluntarily provide in-person tutoring, student assessments and targeted adult- education classes. Participation in those programs is strictly voluntary, and it was unclear how many teachers have agreed to do so.

The district also plans to conduct assessments and offer small group instruction for special education students; begin outdoor physical conditioning for cohorts of student athletes; and provide extra supports for homeless, foster and other high-needs students. Those programs are set to start Monday, Nov. 9.

Those services will be in addition to ongoing efforts to provide childcare to the children of the teachers and staff at schools.

And, Los Angeles Unified also will continue to provide meals -- having already provided more than 74 million meals -- as well as diapers, baby supplies, books, and other supplies to help families in need.

"Even as classes remain online, we continue to work to make sure students have the support they need," Beutner said. "Whether it's helping a student build a foundation in literacy and math or helping an athlete build conditioning to participate in sports, we are working to address their unique learning needs and interests, while protecting the health and safety of all in the school community."

All efforts involving students, teachers, staff and coaches at schools will be conducted according to the highest level of health practices, Beutner said, including COVID-19 testing all students and staff.

Yet, while Beutner praised local companies and major corporations -- such as Amazon, Verizon and Microsoft -- for helping support LAUSD families in need during the pandemic by providing equipment, sponsoring meals and helping to cover other expenses, he has consistently criticized legislators for not providing schools with necessary funding or guidelines for a safe reopening of campuses for all students.

"In every other major metropolitan area across the country, cities and counties have joined with school districts on relief efforts like this. Unfortunately, here in Los Angeles, county and city governments have yet to help. That's not right as they share in the responsibility and are receiving significant federal dollars which are intended to be used for programs like the food relief effort which schools are providing," Beutner said during his Monday address, when he also specifically called out Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature.

"Seven months' absence from schools is having real impact on students. It's time for state and local authorities to work with schools to make sure students and all who work in schools can return safely in January. That's more than two months away, with a clear plan, consistent commitment and a dedicated focus it can be done."