LAUSD is ‘all hands on deck’ for the start of school and distance learning

By Nick Melvoin

Melvoin represents District 4 on the school board of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Nick Melvoin

The Los Angeles Unified School District welcomed our families back to school this week, but it was a new year unlike any other as students logged on to learn from home. In the face of this year’s nearly impossible challenges, we have rolled out unprecedented new efforts to meet the needs of the students and families I represent on the LA Unified Board of Education, while also working to safely reopen schools as soon as possible.

After hearing feedback from families about the emergency transition to distance learning last March, I pushed for a plan that would ensure this year’s instruction will be more rigorous and equitable than last spring. LA Unified recently reached an agreement with our teachers that requires daily, synchronous or real-time instruction, built-in time in a smaller group setting to personalize learning and provide social-emotional support, consistent schedules, clear, articulated time to support English Learners and students with disabilities, and attendance tracking to make sure we are reaching all our students. Administrators will be able to supervise and observe virtual classrooms as needed to provide feedback as our teachers facilitate a semester of learning like we’ve never seen before.

We have also reached agreements with our other staff to help with our “all hands on deck” approach, with substitutes and support staff filling holes and providing as much small group instructional time as possible. Bus drivers will be calling home and providing support for families who have difficulty connecting, campus aides will provide support for teachers to help facilitate breakout rooms and individualized attention, and we are providing childcare for children of the staff who are reporting physically to school sites. We have also developed additional supports to help support teachers and students, like specialized professional development for remote teaching, prioritized content standards and model lessons, professional development supports, a tutoring pilot and more.

As we work to keep our kids learning, we are also busily preparing for the day we can welcome them back safely. We are working to set campuses up with the facilities, equipment, and supplies needed, to reopen and have continued construction on schools, like the new state-of-the-art campus at Venice High, to make our spaces feel welcoming upon return. LA Unified is also rolling out a first-of-its-kind widespread COVID-19 testing and contact tracing system for school communities.

Our Grab and Go meal centers, including the one at Marina del Rey Middle School, have served over 50 million meals to people in need. Our schools have distributed digital devices and hotspots to hundreds of thousands of our students to bridge the digital divide. And I have submitted a resolution advocating for free childcare for District families with the hopes that we can create a public “learning pod” option.

We will continue these efforts, and others, to address the challenges that come our way. This semester will not be perfect, but we will do our best to step up and support our kids and families to make it through this crisis and prepare them to learn and thrive.