LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Monday that students would not be returning for in-person classes this fall, after teachers urged the district to keep stay-at-home orders in place and put an increased focus on improving online learning.
"Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to spread in the Los Angeles area and the virus is going to impact how we start the new school year," Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement. "While the new school year will begin on August 18th as scheduled, it will not begin with students at school facilities. The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise."
The superintendent stated that the district's goal is to welcome students back in-person "as soon as it is safe and appropriate for us to do so."
“I’m 60 years old with a pre-existing condition, have a wife and four children and considered in a high-risk category, according to some guidelines,” Beutner said. “My promise to all the school community is to be right there with you when we return to school.”
Students will begin the fall semester online with a regular schedule that includes daily, live engagement between teachers and students, Beutner said. Regular assessments of student progress will be used by teachers to guide their work with students and keep families informed.
Where possible, schools will add instruction and one-on-one tutoring after school and on Saturday mornings to help students make up for lost time and accelerate their progress.
Addressing parent's concerns about how to care for children at home if they are required to return to work, Beutner said they are receiving input from "families and individuals who work in almost every type of job in the school district."
He added that the district is working "side-by-side" with the county's labor partners to come up with a plan "to balance the learning needs of students, the impact the virus is having
on working families and the health and safety of all in the school community."
More detailed information about the finalized plans for the fall semester are expected to be released the week of August 1, Beutner said.
The decision follows a vote last week by LA Unified teachers hoping to continue with online learning as the pandemic worsed in California.
Of the more than 18,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles who participated, 83% voted against the physical reopening of schools, the union announced Friday.
"It is hitting us hard to think we may not be back with our students in the fall," UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said. "And we know this is hard on our students and their parents, so many of whom have stepped up as our partners in teaching while struggling with the economic fallout of this crisis. But safety must come first, along with a commitment to focus on strengthening distance learning."
The union stated the recent spike in coronavirus cases -- including a record number of one-day deaths in California this week -- "has changed the calculations for when it is safe to go back to schools" and said that even before that surge "there were serious issues with starting the school year on physical campuses."
The union also reiterated its claim from Thursday citing a lack of state and federal funding for increased health and safety measures and what it called the lack of time for the district to put together the detailed, rigorous plans needed for a safe return to campus.
The San Diego Unified School District also announced it will start the school year with online-only courses.
Trump has been adamant that school campuses should reopen in the fall, even hinting that the federal government might withhold funding from jurisdictions that fail to return to in-person instruction.
CNS contributed to this report.