By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
During an address to the school community on Monday, April 13, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner reported campuses across the district would remain closed through the 2019-20 academic year in response to COVID-19.
“The remainder of the school year will be completed in the current remote fashion,” Beutner said, “and we will hold summer school in a similar fashion.”
The time of the address marked one month since LAUSD first announced a closure of campuses—including Palisades Charter Elementary, Canyon Charter Elementary, Marquez Charter Elementary and Paul Revere Charter Middle schools—on Friday, March 13.
“When we made that decision, there were about 50 known cases of the virus in Los Angeles and none had any connection to our school community,” he reported. “Since then, the number of cases has increased almost 200-fold.”
Palisades Charter High School will also continue with eLearning for the remainder of the school year and through summer.
“PCHS is in the process of developing a second semester grading policy that reflects the needs of our students while not penalizing students who are dealing with a variety of issues during this challenging time,” Principal Dr. Pam Magee said to the Palisadian-Post, on Wednesday morning, April 15.
The proposed grading protocols will be reviewed at the next Pali High Board of Trustees meeting, scheduled to take place virtually on April 21.
The announcements from LAUSD and Pali High follow Governor Gavin Newsom and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond’s recommendation that all brick and mortar schools close and remain closed for the duration of the school year, with online instruction continued.
Beutner touched on the fact that health authorities know a good deal more about the virus than they did just weeks ago, that it is more contagious than they initially thought and could be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals.
“The path to reopening school facilities is not known at this time, despite any speculation you might hear,” Beutner explained. “Social distancing and a flattening curve will help an overburdened healthcare system and may save lives, but there’s still no clear picture about testing, treatments or vaccines, which we’ll need to know more about in order to create a plan to safely reopen schools.”
Beutner added that school facilities will not be reopened until state and local health authorities tell the district that it is safe and appropriate to do so, which means, for now, a virtual graduation for high school seniors.
LAUSD is also working with Amazon to expand cloud services in order to strengthen Schoology, the program students are using to conduct distance learning, as Beutner explained that the system was not originally built to handle 500,000 concurrent users. Amazon was also able to help LAUSD establish a mental health hotline in just a few days.
“Los Angeles Unified has provided more than seven million meals to children and families in need,” Beutner reported. “The staggering size of this relief effort is a stark indicator about the growing need in the communities we serve, the impact of this crisis and the need for a safety net, seen in other ways as the stress and anxiety continue to mount.”
LAUSD is also working to get more students online with devices at home, as well as providing high school students with headphones to help eliminate distractions.
The district has raised more than $4.5 million in cash and donations to support relief efforts. Those who would like to contribute can text NEED to 76278 or visit lastudentsmostinneed.org.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story has been updated to include the announcement from Principal Pam Magee that Pali High will also remain closed through the academic year.
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