LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday the suspension of all in-person school instruction and childcare through the rest of the fall semester as cases of COVID-19 continue to spiral upward in Los Angeles County.
LAUSD has been offering one-on-one and small-group tutoring in person for students. Those efforts will now shift to online.
The district is also temporarily suspending childcare, which had been provided for the children of school-based employees and high-needs families, as well as athletic conditioning programs for student-athletes.
Buetner delivered the news via a Zoom conference. The district is closing all of its campuses for in-person learning and childcare.
These changes are expected to be in place by Thursday.
"Because of the extraordinary high level of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles area, it is no longer safe and appropriate to have any students on campus," Superintendent Beutner said.
"We will also be asking those who are currently working at schools to work from home if at all possible for the rest of the semester."
"This is greatly disappointing to all who have been working so hard to build a proper foundation for students’ return to campus. Clean schools, proper health protocols and COVID-19 testing for all at schools make a difference but they don’t provide immunity to the virus," he continued.
The decision affects some 15,000 staff members and about 4,000 K-12 students who had been allowed back on campuses for childcare, athletics and high needs tutoring in small groups.
"We can’t create a bubble for the school community. When things are so dangerous in the communities we serve, it has implications for schools as well," he said.
"My hope is this action today will not only protect the health and safety of all in the school community but will keep the focus where it needs to be – getting the spread of COVID-19 down to levels where schools can safely reopen," Beutner added.
"It is going to have a devastating affect on many students... especially students with special needs,” said Ivor Weiner, Professor at Cal State Northridge.
Students James and Cole Chulak who are both LAUSD middle schoolers and autistic and have been homeschooling since last March. Their mom Diana says it hasn’t always been easy.
“We’ve had a lot of really bad days as well but we really try to look at the positive things and because we still have so many months of this ahead of us focusing on the doom and gloom aspect of it just isn’t helpful for us at this time,” Chulak said.
But Professor Weiner who also runs the campus Family Focus Resource Center offered a dire prediction about school shutdowns.
“We’re going to reap what we’ve sown here for years to come... a generation we’re going to poorer educational outcomes,” said Weiner who urged officials to reopen schools at least for special needs students.
And Diana also wants her boys back in class too but she worries how that will play out after they have been home for so long.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult when they go back how they’re going to be after being so secluded when they go back socially they struggled with that before hand and now I think it’s going to be even worse when they go back..” she said.
Los Angeles Unified’s Grab & Go Food Centers will continue to operate at school sites. The district will also continue its free COVID-19 testing program at schools.
Superintendent Beutner also outlined plans for the eventual reopening of schools, and he called on federal and state officials to provide funding and operational support for the effort. This Marshall Plan for Schools includes:
• A safe environment that includes cleaning and sanitizing of facilities and personal protective equipment for students and staff.
• School-based COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to identify and isolate those with the virus to help reduce the risk for all in a school community.
• Mental-health support for students to address the significant trauma that will accompany them back to classrooms.
• Funding for in-person instruction next summer to help students recover from learning losses due to the pandemic.
"The dire situation faced by schoolchildren deserves the same extraordinary response we have come to expect after floods, wildfires and hurricanes in order to help return students to schools as soon as possible in the safest way possible," Beutner said.
"Our country needs to address the ‘national emergency’ in schools before it becomes a national disgrace that will haunt many children for the rest of their lives."
Los Angeles County shattered its daily record of coronavirus cases Sunday as another 10,528 infections were reported, the fifth time in the past six days that a new record has been set.
The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus, already at an all-time high, rose from 2,769 on Saturday to 2,855.
CNS contributed to this report.