Editor’s note: This story will be updated as new information is available.
The Los Angeles Unified School District said Friday that it was closing all of its schools effective Monday, March 16, “in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid 19.”
The announcement followed an emergency meeting of the LAUSD board of directors and was made jointly with the San Diego Unified School District, which is also closing schools as of Monday.
While the original announcement did not say how long the schools would close, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner later clarified that the closure would be for two weeks, while the district evaluates the “appropriate path forward.”
While there are no immediate plans to close school campuses, the Los Angeles Unified School District is attempting to reassure parents of schoolchildren that it is taking measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep students and employees safe.
“California has now entered a critical new phase in the fight to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Beutner said jointly with San Diego schools superintendent Cindy Marten in the released statement. “There is evidence that the virus is already present in the communities we serve, and our efforts now must be aimed at preventing its spread.”
The statement said both districts, which together serve a total of 750,000 students, will notify parents and staff later today of plans to continue providing education opportunities during closure. “We have also directed staff at both districts to prepare to continue providing nutrition and other supports through family resource facilities.
Minutes after the announcement, Beutner sent an email to employees, explaining that the district’s decision was made following the guidance of public health experts. “We are now at a point where the balance has shifted and the appropriate path is to close schools.”
In the email, Beutner also explained that the district will open 40 family resource centers to provide for children if families need it.
“Each student will have a plan which they will take home with them today and additional support will be provided to assist students as they transition to a different way of teaching,” Beutner’s email concluded.
On Wednesday, Beutner had notified parents of a number of measures the district was taking short of closing schools, including a ban on large gatherings and forbidding spectators at sports event. Friday’s decision to close the schools came under pressure from some parents and teachers; on Thursday the teacher’s union United Teacher Los Angeles urged the district to take the decision.
Beutner told parents on Wednesday that none of the confirmed coronavirus cases in L.A. County were known to be connected to L.A. Unified schools and that the so-called “social distancing” protocols were being taken by the district are a precautionary measure.
Friday’s announcements by LAUSD came several days after the district declared a state of emergency. The declaration gave the superintendent the authority to relocate students and staff, alter transportation arrangements for students and approve options to classroom education. It also gave him further administrative authority over school district facilities, including providing paid leaves to employees who are ill or in quarantine.
The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that the LAUSD has entered a partnership with KCET to schedule educational programming at various Southern California public broadcasting stations that would go on air in conjunction with the closing of any schools. The plan would be for the TV shows –divided among stations KCET, KOCE and district-owned KLCS, according to school year groups– would complement but not replace regular course teaching.
The district has set up a phone hotline for parents with questions about the coronavirus. The hotline – 213-443-1300 – will answer calls Mondays through Fridays, 6 am to 5 pm.
In an email to constituents Thursday, LAUSD board member Mónica García reminded “parents, families, students and community partners” that the district is releasing information updates twice a day, and that they should “look on the District website and social media channels for the latest updates.”
García, whose District 1 includes Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, added links to reliable sources of information and an infographic about stopping the spread of germs which are reproduced below:
Helpful Links/Enlaces Útiles
Los Angeles Unified School District Website
Center for Disease Control and Prevention/Centros de Control y Prevención de Enfermedades
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health/Departamento de salud pública del condado de Los Ángeles