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'We Need More Support': LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner Talks Unique Challenges Posed By Pandemic

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — In the final week before the 2020 school year begins, laptops and textbooks were being distributed as teachers and students prepared for a virtual fall semester and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner talked about the challenges facing the district.

"We're here making sure we reconnect students," he said.

And as for parents who want their children back in classrooms at the beginning of the school year, Beutner said now was not the time — though he also said he understood that classrooms are best for most students and families because it allows working parents to work.

"We've heard so much about the impact this virus is having on essential workers, they need to be at work. We understand that," he said. "But not until it's safe, appropriate, and right now in Los Angeles, the case level of coronavirus is about three times what the CDC would say is appropriate to reopen a school."

The superintendent said the district was keenly aware of the added burden COVID-19 has placed on students and their families — something the Grab and Go food drive-thru program helped to highlight.

"We've provided 53 million meals to the community we serve," he said. "It's the largest food relief program in the country."

Beutner also said that the district needs to contend with the new needs of teachers, many of whom have their own children learning at home.

"If they're more comfortable at home, that's OK," he said. "And for those who choose to come back to teach, our essential workers will provide childcare to make sure their family is well taken care of as well."

And for those students struggling online, Beutner said the district has also come up with a plan to better support them.

"We've come up with a plan for one-on-one tutoring at schools," he said. "We've come up with a plan for free online tutoring for students who need it the most."

As for the challenges facing the school district as a whole, Beutner wanted to remind families that the current situation was not permanent and that there is an end, though he said more support would be needed.

"We need more support in schools," he said. "We have counselors and nurses and librarians in addition to classroom teachers when students come back to make sure they're well taken care of."

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