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LAUSD Students Won't Return To Classrooms In The Fall

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District announced Monday that students will not return to the classroom when the fall semester begins next month because of the surge in coronavirus cases across the Southland.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said that the fall semester will begin Aug. 18. However, student learning will begin online only, with no students returning to in-person classes.

Along with LAUSD, the San Diego Unified School District will also begin its fall semester in a virtual format. The two districts released a joint statement confirming the move.

"Both districts will continue planning for a return to in-person learning during the 2020-21 academic year, as soon as public health conditions allow," the statement read.

Beutner did not provide an estimate regarding when in-person classes might resume.

"The right way to reopen schools is to make sure there's a robust system of testing and contact tracing to mitigate the risk for all in the school community," Beutner said in a video address Monday.

All this comes after United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the union which represents LAUSD teachers, announced Saturday that of 18,000 members who took part in a poll, 83% voted against physically reopening schools to students. The union applauded LAUSD's announcement the correct move in light of the circumstances.

"It was the right thing to close school campuses then, and it's the right thing to keep them closed now," UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement. "In the face of the alarming spike in COVID cases, the lack of necessary funding from the government to open schools safely, and the outsized threat of death faced by working class communities of color, there really is no other choice that doesn't put thousands of lives at risk.

Schools statewide began operating remotely in mid-March, with students using programs such as Zoom and Google Classroom to connect with their teachers and complete their course work to finish out the 2019-20 academic year. LAUSD itself closed campuses on March 16.

LAUSD -- the second largest district in the nation -- serves more than 600,000 students at more than 1,000 schools. It employs about 75,000 people.

Several nearby districts appear to be leaning towards offering students a choice. Santa Ana Unified in Orange County approved a plan under which students could decide whether to learn solely online or under a hybrid model in which they would be in the classroom a few days a week and meet online the rest of the time. Under the hybrid model, no more than 15 students would be in class at a time.

Las Virgenes Unified – which serves parts of Calabasas, Hidden Hills and Ventura County – announced a similar plan.

Last week, President Donald Trump pressured states to reopen schools this fall despite the spike in coronavirus cases both in Southern California and nationwide. Through Sunday, L.A. County has reported 133,549 cases and 3,322 deaths from the disease.

UTLA has released a research paper which details what guidelines it believes must be met before students can safely return to class. It also said the district needs more state and federal funding to be able to effectively meet those guidelines.

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