Getting LAUSD kids back into the classroom

By Nick Melvoin

LAUSD Board member Nick Melvoin visits Kentwood Elementary to see safety measures and demonstrate what school will look like once hybrid instruction starts.

This past year has been exceptionally difficult for the students, families, teachers and staff of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and as your representative on the school board, I am excited that we will soon finally welcome students back into the classroom.

COVID-19 cases are declining, vaccines are being distributed, and we’ve learned a lot about which precautions help keep kids and staff safe. We have also reached an agreement with our teachers’ union to begin the recovery process from this crisis by safely reopening schools for in-person instruction in a hybrid model.

Here’s what reopening will look like: We will begin reopening some elementary schools on April 12, with the remaining schools returning the following week. Elementary students who would like to return to campus will have three hours of in-person instruction Monday through Friday.

In addition, to ease the transition back to campus, we’re going a step further by offering families the options of on-campus child care and extra enrichment activities.

Of course, for those students who choose to continue learning remotely for the time being, schools will provide three hours of live virtual instruction. Middle and high school students will be able to return to campus on April 26. Students will learn in stable in-person cohorts, allowing them to preserve individual course loads and schedules this late in the year.

I will continue pushing for the fall semester to look as close to normal as possible, as health conditions continue to improve. We are also actively planning summer enrichment opportunities for all families interested in participating.
Safety is, of course, our top priority. All students and staff will be tested for COVID-19 prior to their return to campus, and regular COVID-19 testing will be provided thereafter. To ensure the safest environment possible for everyone returning to campus, the district has already invested more than $120 million on new safety measures, including upgrading air-filtration systems, procuring adequate stocks of PPE and disinfecting supplies, and adding extra custodial staff.

Every air filter on every campus has been replaced with the equivalent of an N95 mask. Masks and social distancing protocols will be in place for students, staff and visitors at schools, and schools will use outdoor learning environments where appropriate to ensure safety.

I recently visited a few schools across my district to see these protocols and safety measures firsthand, including Walgrove Elementary in Venice and Kentwood Elementary in Westchester. Campuses are ready, and staff are prepared and eager to have students back at school.

The process of reopening a district as large and diverse as LAUSD is especially complex and won’t be perfect. But we will continue to navigate challenges and push forward, just like we did when transitioning nearly overnight to distance learning for more than half a million teachers and students, procuring more than 200,000 devices and hotspots to give every student access to virtual classrooms, and distributing over 110 million meals and necessities to the kids and families who rely on their school as part of the social safety net over the past year.

I deeply appreciate everyone who has fought to keep our kids healthy and learning. We will continue to learn, adapt and overcome any obstacles that emerge – because our kids and families are counting on us.

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