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LAUSD Confirms First Employee Virus Case As It Rushes To Distribute Laptops, Internet Hotspots

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LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner confirmed the “first known diagnosis of a Los Angeles Unified employee having COVID-19” in a video update today. He said the school district first learned of the case last week.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “as the virus spreads throughout the communities we serve, we know this will not be the only employee or member of our school community who is diagnosed.”

Beutner also provided updated statistics on the district’s efforts to close a “great big digital divide” that has hampered efforts to pivot to online instruction while campuses are closed because of the coronavirus.

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Beutner has estimated one-quarter of its students lack internet access at home. Others don’t own a computer at home, making it difficult for them to continue their studies online.

Throughout the crisis, Beutner has been blunt. Last week, he said this “digital divide” means thousands of students “aren't getting the learning opportunity they should be." Today, he shared more details about just how many students are logging on:

  • “Of 120,000 high school students,” he said, “there are about 15,000 with whom there has been no online contact since schools closed. We’re working to reduce that number to zero.”
  • 2,000 high school students have received internet hotspots as part of the district’s deal with wireless giant Verizon.
  • Most high schoolers — 88% — have logged on at some point since March 16, the first day schools were closed.
  • But the number of students who participate in online classes on a daily basis is lower: on any given day, about 68% of high schoolers log on, Beutner said.

Beutner said officials have started to distribute laptop computers and internet hotspots to the thousands who need them to continue their studies. He said the district’s primary goal is to distribute devices to every high school student who needs them “as soon as we can.”
While Beutner has not laid out a timetable for distributing all devices, he also counseled patience:

“Imagine trying to change the seats on an airplane, and maybe some of the wiring, while continuing to fly at 30,000 feet in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm in a plane low on fuel. The shift to online learning in our schools is a bit more difficult.”

LAUSD does not plan to resume in-person instruction until at least May 4.


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