LOS ANGELES — Contact tracing and testing are two of the main determinants for when Los Angeles Unified School District students may be able to return to in-person learning, according to LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner.
Beutner gave an update Monday on the state of online learning heading into the 2020-21 school year, which gets underway later this month.
"I continue to believe health practices are only one piece of the solution there should be testing for the virus and contact tracing at schools," Beutner said.
In the update, the superintendent said the more immediate goal would be to transition from distance learning to a hybrid approach that would see students receive instruction both online and in person. He also discussed how the district's approach in the new school year will be refined based on lessons learn from most recent school year.
"The goal is to have as much teacher-led instruction as possible," Beutner stated. “Online instruction in the new school year will have more structure and standards, and increased interaction between teachers and students.”
Beutner emphasized that the district would go to greater lengths to ensure all students had a device and an internet connection to facilitate online learning while pledging to strengthen the supporting tools and technologies underlying this system.
"It's all hands on deck," Beutner said.
Stressing that mounting a school year under the conditions dictated by the pandemic was an enormous undertaking, Beutner laid out three "sometimes conflicting objectives" that would need to be successfully balanced before students could return to in-person learning:
- The learning needs of students
- The impact the virus is having on working families
- Protecting the health and safety of all in the school community
“In the Los Angeles area, there are considerably more cases of the virus than the standard set by the state," said Beutner. "At the same time the positive testing rate is much closer to the 8 percent guideline set by the state."
Cases and testing rates will be the two key determining factors as to when students will eventually return to school. Beutner said the district would continue to consult health experts.
Although there are no immediate plans for student to return to campus, Beutner laid out some of the on-campus measures the school was undertaking.
"All the schools are stocked and have been cleaned top to bottom," he said, adding that every night surfaces would be cleaned using electrostatic machines and that air filters in air conditioning units would be made of the same material used in N95 masks.
“We’ll continue to listen to health experts and put in place their recommendations on how to reduce the risk at schools,” said Beutner.
The superintendent said the first few days of the school year would be dedicated to training teachers and making sure students had the devices, supplies and connectivity they needed. To help facilitate this, the district will be putting out resource guides for principals and families as well as instructional materials and support for teachers.
With the appropriate measures in place, LAUSD will work to move toward a hybrid schedule approach that would see students undertake a combination of at-home learning and staggered in-person instruction in order to minimize the number of students on campus at one time.
"Our goal is to maximize the time in schools for students, every day for elementary school students and two or three days a week for secondary school students. Students would also be able to participate in school on Saturday mornings and one-on-one tutoring online and in-person will be provided to students who need it the most," said Beutner, adding that detailed guidance will be provided to parents and teachers.
"The goal is to provide a clear set of expectations for teachers and students," he said.