AUSD schools close in response to COVID-19 health concerns

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Due to a recent surge in local COVID-19 cases, AUSD announced that it will dismiss more than 16,000 students from its 21 campuses starting Monday, March 16 to April 6. 

The decision was made at an emergency board meeting today, after Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the nation, announced its closure this morning. Although there are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus within AUSD, the school board is taking precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of the students and staff.

“We have an obligation to educate our students, [but] at the same time, we have an obligation to protect from what’s going on right now with COVID-19,” Superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo said. 

To provide an alternative to classroom teaching, the district will be working with teachers on-site next week to devise a plan for “distance learning” by Thursday. A survey emailed to parents and students this morning will be used to assess technology and Internet access as well as assist the district in carrying out any necessary actions.

We are working with our technology department to formulate a roll-out process in which students could check out laptops, and right now, we’re exploring hot spots,” Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Janet Lees said at the board meeting. “We are also developing ‘packets of instructional units,’ [which are] a reflection of the online units that students who have access to technology will get but through a paper format.”

However, some students are doubtful about the effectiveness of distance learning and the ability of teachers to completely adapt to online lessons within the next week. 

“I don’t like the idea of online classes,” senior Kimberly Benitez said. “Not everyone is comfortable learning through the computer, but I understand that it’s one of the only options we have at the moment.”

With concerns regarding the possible postponement of graduation, the district will apply to the state for a waiver, which will excuse absent instructional time. Upon approval, the school year will end as previously scheduled and all students will get the credits they need to progress. 

“For our students who need credit for graduation, there will be no challenge in us getting the credits to them,” Jaramillo said. “We’ll get the instruction to them so they can earn the credits. All 80 school districts in Los Angeles County are doing this. We’re not alone in it.” 

Currently, there are 247 confirmed coronavirus cases in California and 40 cases in the county. The district will reassess the situation by the end of spring break to determine if schools will be back in session. 

“We will return when we are confident with public health guidance and community calm,” Jaramillo said. “There’s a possibility [dismissal will] be the entire school year and there’s a possibility we will be back on April 7. To me, they’re both equal possibilities.”

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