LAUSD Will Offer Summer School To All, 'No Decisions' Yet When Campuses Will Reopen
Los Angeles Unified School District officials are making plans for summer -- and for now, none of those plans involve reopening school campuses shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video address Monday, Superintendent Austin Beutner said LAUSD leaders have "made no decisions" about whether the fall semester -- still scheduled to begin on August 18 -- will involve students in classrooms, online or both. He said it's not clear what the public health conditions will allow.
Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom surprised many educators when he suggested California schools could resume in-person instruction early -- perhaps even as soon as mid-July. Newsom fears the longer students remain at home, the farther they'll fall behind academically.
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But on Monday, Beutner outlined an alternative solution for this problem: he said LAUSD will offer summer classes -- all online -- to any student who wishes to participate, "which we've never done before."
WHAT WILL LAUSD'S EXPANDED SUMMER SCHOOL LOOK LIKE?
Beginning in the middle of June, LAUSD will offer three different summer learning options:
- Credit recovery and intervention for high-need students. Just like in any typical summer, LAUSD will offer high school students another chance to complete courses they need to earn their diplomas. They'll also offer intensive interventions for younger students. And like in normal times, participation in these most-rigorous programs will be "invitation-only" -- federal funding guidelines limit these programs to the students who are furthest behind, Beutner said.
- Instruction for all in core subjects in grades pre-K through 12. Beutner said any student who wishes can enroll in math and English language arts courses during the summer session. During a town hall meeting last week, officials with LAUSD's Local District West said that these courses would be offered for two hours each day. "We haven't done this before," he said. "this will be new."
- Enrichment opportunities for all students. Beutner teased one opportunity he said LAUSD would offer in conjunction with the guitar-making Fender, which would teach students to play ukulele or guitar. Other enrichment programs will be available that will tie in math, literacy and critical thinking skills. LAUSD Local District West officials also said this summer enrichment program will also feature virtual visits to zoos and libraries.
Participation in summer school programming will be voluntary, Beutner said. Many other details of how the program will work are still being finalized.
THE COST TO CLOSE A SUMMER GAP
In years past, roughly 20,000 of the district's 472,000 students would have participated in summer school programs, most of them in programs designed for the highest-need students.
LAUSD teachers will lead the courses -- and because teachers aren't normally paid during the summer, they'll be earning "additional" compensation, Beutner said in an interview.
Historically, funding constraints have limited the size of LAUSD's summer school offerings, Beutner said. But this year, "we're not going to make the budget the constraint."
As a result, LAUSD could be operating this year's summer programs at a financial loss. Officials have previously estimated that the additional offerings will exceed LAUSD's current budget for summer school by $50 million.
"In these extraordinary circumstances," Beutner said. "we are going to provide the funding to make it available for all because there's a ton of research that shows that learning gaps are problematic for students."
WHAT ABOUT THE GOVERNOR'S IDEA?
It's concern about this "learning gap" that drove Governor Newsom last week to float the idea that schools cut their summer breaks short.
One recent, early forecast suggested that -- if existing research on summer learning loss is any guide -- in some worst-case scenarios, students could begin next school year as much as a full grade-level behind, particularly in math. (The researchers behind the forecast say not all students will backslide quite this dramatically.)
In an interview with KPCC/LAist, Beutner said he doesn't mean for Monday's speech to be read as a rebuke of the governor's idea.
Beutner pointed out that both he and Newsom have outlined similar requirements that would have to be met before school campuses could reopen -- among them: widespread coronavirus testing and contact tracing, favorable trends in case counts and the availability of personal protective gear.
But while not entirely ruling out Newsom's idea, Beutner also said it's too soon to begin discussing a date of return: "Let's let the science catch up with the speculation."
"The governor has this strategy of being transparent by starting public conversations," said Wes Smith, the executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. "That's what he does. He launches these trial balloons and then we around the state start to dig in ...
"Nothing is going to happen this summer," Smith said on KPCC's AirTalk last week, "that's going to put our students or our staff at jeopardy. We're going to work on those things before we ever discuss starting in earnest in July, August, September or whenever that date is."
GRADUATIONS, TRAINING, REOPENING PLANS
A few other items Beutner addressed:
Graduations. Beutner said all end-of-year ceremonies -- everything from high school graduation ceremonies to elementary- or middle school culminations -- will only be held online.
Beutner said LAUSD officials looked into some pretty dramatic options, like renting out the Coliseum or Dodger Stadium and seating students "far apart." But health authorities told district officials that, for now, virtual gatherings were the only way for families to celebrate safely.
Beutner committed to make LAUSD facilities and funding available for in-person celebrations that could take place after it's safe to reopen school campuses.
Training. This week, more than half of LAUSD teachers will begin a 30-hour training course in distance learning instruction this week.
In an interview, Beutner said the course is designed to help teachers answer these questions:
"How do you get a sense if students are engaged or not? How do you raise their level of engagement? How do you make sure families are part of this discussion? How do you make sure you balance out Zoom versus independent work?"
This training continues a 10-hour course that Beutner said "almost all" LAUSD teachers completed on "the basics of online instruction" last month.
Reopening plans. Beutner said district officials are studying the options.
Beutner referenced a plan of alternating schedules where students could attend classes on-campus for only a few days a week and online for the rest of the time.
That said, Beutner cautioned that it's too early to talk about how LAUSD campuses will work once they reopen.
"It's not just as simple as moving the desks apart," Beutner said in an interview. "There's a lot of complicated moving parts."
This post was updated with additional quotes and information.