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LAUSD Middle And High School Campuses Are Now Reopening. Here’s What To Expect

 L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner (left) poses a question to the students in Fleming Middle School teacher Stacey Takamoto's sixth grade Zoom class on Monday, April 26, 2021.
L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner (left) poses a question to the students in Fleming Middle School teacher Stacey Takamoto's sixth grade Zoom class on Monday, April 26, 2021.
(Kyle Stokes
/
LAist )
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Starting this week, principal Heather Karuza’s students at Fleming Middle School in Lomita face a choice.

“Do I stay on Zoom at home, where I can go to the fridge and not wear shoes?” Karuza says with a laugh. “Or do I get ready, and get dressed, and come to school, and sit in my class and Zoom?”

Read our reopening guide for middle and high schools

Karuza’s referring to the L.A. Unified School District’s plan for offering on-campus classes to middle- and high schoolers. Starting this week, students will get the option to come to campus every other day — but they’ll continue to attend their courses via Zoom, and they won’t change classrooms in-between class periods.

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For many students, the choice has been a no-brainer: in most LAUSD neighborhoods, at least two-thirds of students will stick with entirely online courses.

In Lomita, Karuza expects about 25% of Fleming students to return.

“Some students are going to wait until next year, and we respect that,” she said, “We’ve been doing an incredible job online. The kids are learning. They’re engaged.”

But some students need a stable internet connection, a little social interaction with peers, or a place to go so their parents can work.

“We’ve talked to so many families who’ve been unable to work because they’ve been at home taking care of their children,” said LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner.

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Who’s Coming Back This Week?

At middle- and high-school campuses across LAUSD, the youngest students will return first.

Half of the district’s 6th and 9th graders will have the option to return to campuses on Tuesday; the other half will return on Wednesday.

Students in the remaining grades will get the option to return on Thursday or Friday, depending on which “advisory” classroom they attend (an advisory is like the modern equivalent of “homeroom”).

‘That’s Going To Take Time’

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Some critics have accused LAUSD leaders — and United Teachers Los Angeles negotiators — of setting overly cautious plans for reopening campuses. Those critics have reserved their harshest judgment for the plans on secondary campuses, where students will spend the entire day in their advisory classroom, learning on Zoom while their advisory teacher leads separate classes from the front of the room.

From the day Beutner and union officials announced the “Zoom-in-a-room” plan for middle- and high schools, district leaders have acknowledged the setup is not ideal.

But LAUSD officials also want to keep middle- and high schoolers in small, stable groups to prevent potential outbreaks — which means students can’t all circulate between classes, as they typically would. They also don’t want to mess with students’ schedules with so little time left in the school year.

“We start with what we know we can do safely, and we build on that,” Beutner said in an interview Monday.

“So many of the communities we serve have been so hard-hard hit,” he added. “They still fear COVID. That’s going to take time. It’s not just schools that have to share a message of wellness and what a path to recovery looks like.”

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Beutner said he hopes for a “more complete” reopening of schools by the fall.