16 kids in a class, playing alone at recess: What LA schools could look like

LA County’s Office of Education released guidelines today for how to bring its 2 million students back to campuses in the fall. Suggestions include each student having their own face mask and their own ball at recess so they can safely play alone.

Howard Blume, LA Times education reporter, says schools are facing an unknown future, floating multiple scenarios as the fall semester approaches. There might be staggered schedules for students being in classrooms, which would look vastly different than before. 

He says that social distancing protocols would be enforced in classrooms, where there might only be 12 to 16 desks, plus other furniture such as filing cabinets, teachers’ desks and learning stations. Keeping books and laptops sanitized might be difficult. 

“There's a lot of shared supplies for the young children. There's a carpet where they huddle together and listen to the teacher read books,” Blume says. “Well, you can forget that huddle time on the carpet. And maybe you can forget the books as well.”

Funding extra needs at LAUSD 

The current proposed California budget calls for a 10% cut in LAUSD funding for the 2020-2021 year.

Blume says a tighter budget might be a challenge as the district will have to offer three different types of learning models. One is completely virtual, one places students in the classroom most of the time, and another mixes digital and in-person learning. Schools will also need new supplies such as masks, thermometers and protective shielding, as well as extra staff to sanitize bathrooms and other areas. 

“If you have split times, do you pay teachers for longer hours or hire more teachers?” Blume says. “How do you pay for plexiglass shields in the office or places where you may need them where you can’t do social distancing?” 

Keeping students safe

Making sure students are wearing masks all day and keeping their distance will be challenging, Blume says. There are also students with disabilities or health conditions who might be unable to wear masks or completely follow public health mandates. 

Lunchtime could prove to be difficult as well, he says. Schools may be forced to have half-days and send students home with a meal instead of providing food on campus.  

Because public schools are required to follow LA County guidelines, masks will be required inside schools at all times, Blume notes. And if students don’t attend class with one on, the school will have to provide one.  

— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Caleigh Wells