LAUSD closes schools due to coronavirus: What you need to know

Gymnasium and basketball courts at Palms Middle School, Los Angeles. Photo by Amy Ta.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, the LA Unified School District is shutting down its schools starting Monday, March 16. This will last at least two weeks.

The move comes after increasing pressure from the United Teachers Los Angeles union and the greater community to shut down the district. LAUSD is the largest district in the state, serving more than 670,000 students. 

“What we have to do is look at the balance between mitigating and reducing the spread in the community, and this is the balance for us, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Buetner said at a press conference on March 13.  “We can control our school environment.”

No reported COVID-19 cases were found in the district prior to its closure, but Beutner said that the main motivation behind the decision was to slow the spread of the virus.  

He also stated that all LAUSD employees will continue to get paid, regardless of whether or not they work directly with children. 

What does this look like on the ground?

Lessons will continue

In-person learning will be at a standstill. 

However, students will still be expected to study and do homework. They’ll accomplish that through take-home learning plans, with materials in both English and Spanish. 

Some students will continue lesson plans they had worked on in the classroom. Others will engage in curriculum written by both LAUSD and PBS SoCal. 

Pat Hy, a parent of four and educator, is trying to be optimistic about the closures. But she’s also aware that her kids will need structure once they’re home. 

“Education's scheduled, but of course, it'll be shorter than what they already have now. It's not going to be a whole six to eight hours,” Hy said. 

Her daughter Alexis also feels torn: “[I'm] kind of happy because I didn't want to be at school that much. But I'm not gonna be around people, so it's going to be kind of weird. And I don't really talk to my friends that much outside of our school.”

The district’s meal programs will continue

Many LAUSD students come from low-income families, and they depend on schools for meals. In response, the district will continue to provide meals for students across the region. Food will be available for pick-up at 60 Grab and Go Food Centers across the region. They will open on Wednesday, March 18, and operate weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. 

Find your nearest Grab & Go Food Center below. 

You can also find a list of Grab & Go Centers on the LAUSD website

The centers are opened in partnership with the Red Cross.

A 2017 Food Research Action Center report found that more than 70% of students in the LAUSD qualified for free or reduced lunches. 

This announcement comes days after a previous proposal to open Family Resource Centers across the LA. According to Beutner, local health and public safety officials could not assure the district that it would be “safe for the children and adults at the Family Centers ... to provide care for children at these sites.”

“I cannot ask anyone to work at one of the centers, or open them to children, unless we can be assured of their safety,” Beutner said in a statement. 

Annually, the district spends about $160 million to feed students. 

In an executive order signed on March 13, Governor Gavin Newsom declared schools to direct extra funds to remote learning and childcare during typical workday hours. 

“Closing schools has a massive, cascading effect for our kids and their families — especially those least equipped financially to deal with them,” Newsom said in a statement. “The needs of California kids must be met regardless of whether their school is open or closed. School districts that choose to close must use state educational dollars to quickly meet the needs of children and families.”

Full text of Superintendent Austin Beutner’s March 16 announcement: