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LAUSD’s Youngest Learners Log On To New School Year

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An Adventist Health White Memorial volunteer hands 3-year-old Zayla a backpack filled with school supplies at an Aug. 14 distribution. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
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The start of the school year in the Los Angeles Unified School District includes virtual instruction for about 22,000 young children in early education programs such as preschool and transitional kindergarten.

“Let's get ready. Let's be calm. And let's go ahead and make sure that we can reach every parent.” That was Principal Claudia Araujo’s message to staff at Sylvan Park Early Education Center this week.

When distance learning replaced in-person classes in March, early childhood educators such as Araujo found themselves faced with a particular challenge — a lot of early learning is focused on social skills, figuring out how to handle emotions and following routines that will later help kids be successful in school. Those lessons aren’t easily delivered online.

Early education students are scheduled for at least 90 minutes of live virtual instruction a day. Araujo said, since March, they’ve learned that kids really pay attention to video lessons when there’s physical activity involved.

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“If we're counting, we're clapping,” Araujo said. “We’re, you know, constantly moving.”

She’s also seen students use Zoom’s annotation tools — basically a virtual marker — to play games such as I Spy with their teachers and classmates.

Another challenge: the benefits of those engaging lessons are lost when an Internet connection fails in the middle of class.

Araujo tells teachers: “If that happened, let's call home and find out was it an intentional drop off or something happening with the Internet.”

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READ MORE ABOUT THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR