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Morning Brief: The State Of LAUSD, Echo Park Fencing, LA’s Role in ‘Xanadu’

A man in a suit sits in a blue and yellow play house surrounded by young children.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho visiting Glassell Park Early Education Center on April 7, 2022.
(Mariana Dale/ LAist)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Tuesday, August 9.

It’s back to school time! While I’m certainly glad I don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars of my own money on school supplies for my students, I sometimes miss all the freshness of a new school year.

Class is back in session next week for over 400,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Alberto M. Carvalho officially became superintendent earlier this year and on Monday he gave his first address to district administrators. He did not mince words and warned of tough times ahead.

One thing in his favor: the school board has just endorsed Carvalho's strategic plan, which my colleague, senior reporter on K-12 education, Kyle Stokes said is a big show of support. Now, Carvalho has to act on it.

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So, parents, teachers, students, community members, here are THREE things Kyle said to look out for this year with LAUSD:

1. Health protocols, like masks requirements, are a bit more relaxed this school year

L.A. students will not have to wear masks and students will no longer need to test for COVID-19 weekly. Vaccine mandates are paused along with the rest of the state’s. Rapid testing may not be required. “I think there’s some sort of concern, as you know from parents, we are moving too far in the wrong direction,” said Kyle. “This school district, for the duration of the pandemic, has been one of the most cautious, if not the most cautious in the nation, and now they are kind of just moving to blend back in with the rest of the pack.”

2. How school district leaders will spend an unprecedented amount of COVID relief money

L.A. Unified received $4.6 billion in total relief funding from the federal government, and there are still funds they have to spend before the deadline runs out.

“There’s so much money. And in some cases there aren’t staff to hire with this money,” Kyle said. “At a national level, school districts are sort of fighting to get more time to spend the money because there's a deadline coming up in two years. Carvalho is also talking about this as we need to be spending this money because there are kids with urgent needs right now.” Carvalho has a few top goals on his agenda, including increasing the number of graduates to be academically prepared to attend California’s four year colleges.

“After the federal money is gone, we’re running up on what could be called a perfect storm,“ said Kyle. “Soon the state is going to stop extraordinary pandemic measures to fund schools based on their old enrollment and not on new enrollment. Soon we’re going to be kind of back to non-pandemic aid, a normal type of situation.”

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3. L.A. Unified has to deal declining enrollment

Kyle reported earlier this year that LAUSD officials predict enrollment will decline by 36,000 students by Fall of 2023. The reasons vary. Some kids went to private school, maybe some kids went to charter schools. Some families left L.A. for less expensive cities. The COVID pandemic has also likely contributed.

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Carvalho has said school closures are avoidable. But Kyle notes “the district is really reaching a critical point on enrollment” and offers this look at what could happen if LAUSD’s enrollment doesn’t stop dropping.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below the fold.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go...Remembering L.A.'s Role in 'Xanadu'

A blonde-haired actress stares straight into the camera in a movie poster titled "Xanadu".
Olivia Newton-John starred in the 1980 movie 'Xanadu' with Gene Kelly. Newton-John died on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022 at the age of 73.
(Universal Pictures )

The hearts of 80s children everywhere broke Monday after hearing that singer, songwriter and actress Olivia Newton-John died at age 73. There was her music, her style (remember Koala Blue?) and then there were the ionic movie roles. She is probably best remembered for playing Sandy in the musical Grease but, for many of us, Xanadu was where it was at.

Did you know that some of L.A.’s most iconic landmarks feature in this mythical ELO-infused roller skating film? There’s the Venice Boardwalk… the Hollywood Bowl… the Malibu Pier. But the art deco darling of the movie is the old Pan-Pacific Auditorium. It fell into disrepair and was eventually destroyed in a fire in 1989, but it will forever be preserved in Xanadu. If you’ve never watched it, we suggest you find it in the streaming universe and check it out. Do it for Olivia. It also happened to be Gene Kelly’s last film. Now you know.

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