LOS ANGELES — Schools across Los Angeles County and Southern California are shut down through summer school, and even a return to school in the fall is in question.
Parents, teachers, and students face an uncertain new normal.
L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner spoke with Spectrum News 1 anchor Giselle Fernandez on a new episode of COVID-19: Just the Facts about what the future of education holds for SoCal students and parents amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Superintendent Beutner addressed some of the challenges the district is confronting in an attempt to keep students engaged with the education process, even when they aren't in the classroom.
"When we closed school facilities, we didn't close school," he said, adding they put in place a high-tech/low-tech approach with a partnership with PBS.
In terms of the question on most parents' minds, as to when schools would reopen, Beutner said safety would be a primary factor.
"We'll be guided by one fundamental thing, which is when is it safe and appropriate to reopen schools?" he said. "Then the 'how' becomes the secondary part. So if it's safe and appropriate, if there's adequate testing, if we know that everyone coming into a school doesn't have the virus, then we can take certain other measures to make sure that we're not in a place where spreading occurs."
With many students depending on going to school for vital daily meals, LAUSD has set up 60 Grab & Go centers across the district so that students don't go without the meals they depend on.
Beutner spoke of the challenge of maintaining the centers.
"It's been an extraordinary challenge. It really is a community effort," he said. "But at the outset, we knew we provide a safety net to families ans students. We decided before we served the first meal that this was a food and community relief effort, not a school kitchen. So we've served since Day 1, anyone who needs help."
The superintendent was also optimistic that there could be potentially long-term benefits for LAUSD in overcoming the challenges of educating and feeding students from a distance during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I hope when we're back in schools and we're talking about more support for children, a reading teacher in every classroom, the things that we ought to be doing in schools," said Beutner. "I'll feel like I've accomplished when I took this job, what I set out to do in the first place."