Thousands of LAUSD students head back to class

More than a half-million Los Angeles Unified School District students headed back to campus Tuesday as classes resumed at the nation's second-largest school district.

The school year marks the first for Austin Beutner as LAUSD superintendent, and he spent the morning touring a variety of campuses to meet with students and staff.

``Our mission is to make sure every student who enters L.A. Unified as a kindergartner, by the time they finish high school is prepared for a 21st Century career, if that's the path they choose,'' Beutner told reporters during a visit to the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center.

Beutner tried to set a celebratory tone with his tour of campuses throughout the district. He also attended a morning roll call at the Los Angeles School Police Department as officers deployed for the first day of classes.

But the excitement of the first day of school was slightly overshadowed by the lingering possibility of a teachers' strike. United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing district teachers, declared an impasse in contract talks last month, leading to the appointment of a state mediator.

Should mediation fail to bring the sides together, a fact-finding period will follow, after which the union could potentially call a strike.

The union has been asking for 6.5 percent salary increases, along with steps to lower class sizes, reduce standardized testing and implement ``accountability measures'' for charter schools. The district has offered ongoing 2 percent salary hikes, along with a one-time 2 percent bonus and a $500 stipend for materials and supplies.

Beutner said the district is committed to working toward a resolution.

``It's our responsibility to make sure our schools are open every day,'' he said. ``It's the safest place for our students to be. It allows the parents to go to work and support their families. It allows our students to keep learning, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that happens.''

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