Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Austin Beutner announced Monday, March 23 that schools will remain closed through May 1 as he charted a plan to ramp up the district’s capacity to deliver online learning for nearly 600,000 students.

Beutner said he made a $100 million emergency purchase toward securing a laptop or tablet device for every student and training for teachers and families to better support the estimated 100,000 district students who lack home internet access.

Verizon telecommunications agreed to provide free wireless internet access for any LAUSD student without it, Beutner announced. Last week, Spectrum also offered to provide free 60 days of broadband to local K-12 student and college households.

Beutner’s extension of closures followed week one of campus shutdowns enforced to help hamper spread of the coronavirus outbreak, and a recommendation Friday by L.A. County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo to stretch closures through early May.

Earlier Monday, the superintendent penned a letter to state legislative delegations requesting emergency appropriations with a warning that the district’s budgets will not balance for the current fiscal year “because of the extraordinary costs associated with responding to the global pandemic.”

In a live-streamed announcement, Beutner said the district estimated that one half of students continued learning at the same pace they would have been in the classroom last week, with one-quarter not “getting the full learning opportunity they should be receiving” and another quarter “doing okay.”

“Los Angeles Unified will provide devices and internet connections for all students, and training for all students, teachers and families,” Beutner said. “Many of our families are struggling to make ends meet and cannot afford to do this on their own – but their children deserve the same opportunity those in more affluent communities have.”

Beutner said that around a quarter of the $100 million, which will come out of district reserves and other resources like bond dollars, will be used for teacher technology training.

Since the closures, LAUSD has prioritized distributing meals and kickstarting learning outside the classroom for more than half a million students, 80% of which belong to low-income households. The district, which serves more than 1 million meals on an ordinary day of school, said almost a quarter million packaged meals were distributed at its 60 ‘Grab and Go’ centers Friday.

Beutner also said the district began providing meals at 8 temporary homeless shelters recently opened by the City of L.A this week.

Some parents, teachers and students voiced concern last week about signs of inconsistency between schools and among classes when it came to distance learning, and the potential for low-income, special needs or English learning students lacking access to technology or parent tutoring to get left behind.

Depending on the school or the classroom, students sought to continued learning during last week’s closure through a spectrum of means — from pencil and paper using homework packets and textbooks, to communicating with teachers on Google classroom or Zoom on laptops, to watching instructional programs on PBS, KCET or KCLCS.

Beutner said over the next few weeks, teachers will be given several training days to sharpen their tech savvy while students learn independently and schools distribute devices. A week of spring break, which was scheduled to begin April 6, will continue as normal.

The distance learning focus for elementary school will be foundation pieces like literacy, math and critical thinking said Beutner. Some high school educational activities, like science labs and physical education, “will need to be different.”

“It’s not reasonable for students or educators, nor is it sound educational practice, for teachers and students to spend six hours a day in online, two-way communication,” he said. “And families who are struggling to get by in this crisis may not be able to spend all day trying to help their children do schoolwork.”

Beutner said almost 4,000 teachers and 100 school principals were surveyed to help develop the district’s plan during these prolonged school closures. The district asked questions like how many students lack internet access, how principals communicate with teachers and teachers with students, how teachers provide instruction to students and where they could use help.

The district also set up email hotline — suggestions@lausd.net — for school community members to share ideas for how to best navigate these “uncharted waters.”

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