Mixed emotions linger as reopening approaches in LAUSD schools

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will reopen 61 elementary schools to students the week of April 12. According to a letter from LAUSD’s Superintendent Austin Beutner, the remaining elementary schools will open the week of April 19, and middle schools and high schools will open the week of April 26.

According to NELA’s LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg, gradually reopening schools over the course of a couple weeks is crucial to make the process as smooth as possible.

“This gives us a week to find out what the glitches are in the system before the rest of the elementary schools come on April 19,” Goldberg said. “That’s really important because I don’t care what anyone says — no one has done this before. We’re all doing this for the first time, there are going to be glitches. I’d rather have glitches in 60 or 70 schools than in 400 elementary schools.”

Still, for LAUSD students, there will not be a complete return to normalcy any time soon. An elementary school student in the district has two options. The first option is to participate in a hybrid model where they would be on campus five days a week, either in the morning 8 a.m.–11 a.m., or the afternoon 12 p.m.–3 p.m. The other option would be to stay completely online.

LAUSD middle and high school students will have the option to be on campus two to three days a week in addition to the exclusively online model.

“We’ve changed all the air filters, and they’re now like wearing an N95 mask. We’ve opened windows that haven’t been opened in 50 years, we’ve moved desks out and we’ve provided double the amount of custodians per school,” Goldberg said. “I’m a grandparent of seven kids in LAUSD schools, and all of them are returning.”

Conversely, Eagle Rock parent Heather Hemingway has one son at Eagle Rock Junior-Senior High School, two sons at Dahlia Heights Elementary School and a toddler, and she said her kids will not return to in-person school this spring. 

“Maybe if my husband and I could get vaccinated we’d consider [letting the kids return to school],” Hemingway said.

Hemingway said she would have safety concerns if she sent her kids back to school now. 

A multitude of colorful strings hang from the fence outside of Eagle Rock High School. Saturday Feb. 21, 2021. Angela Guglielmino/The Occidental.

“There are six of us that live in one household. If my kids get [COVID-19] and then bring it home to my husband and me, and let’s say that my husband and I get really severe cases. Who is there to take care of my children?” Hemingway said.

Biology teacher at Eagle Rock High School, Brenda Malec, said she is slightly disappointed with the current structure for in-person classes. She said she and her colleagues will only be in-person with their advisory students, those in a regularly scheduled non-academic period focused on interpersonal advising, instead of the students they are teaching this semester

“When we all heard we were reopening without really knowing the schedule, we assumed we would get to see some of our students,” Malec said. “As a teacher, I think that has been the hardest: knowing we’re going to go back into the classroom and then not having our actual students.”

Franklin High School in Highland Park will also place students who choose to return to a physical classroom in a room with their advisory teacher, and those students will attend Zoom classes with their academic teachers, according to the school’s dean, Dr. Maria Grace Martinez.

Eagle Rock High School’s field behind a fence. Saturday Feb. 21, 2021. Angela Guglielmino/The Occidental.

“It will be different, but it will teach us and make us realize that things are not always the same, and everyone needs to be flexible and know how to adjust and evolve with the changing environmental conditions. I have taught myself to accept these changes and find meaning in the things that we can still have, value or control,” Martinez said via email.

Eagle Rock High School senior Edriana Altea said one of the positive outcomes of online learning is that it has allowed her to strengthen her connections with her teachers. 

“My teachers are always there and I feel like they’re all willing to go the extra mile to provide support with office hours and in class,” Altea said. “That kind of support makes it very manageable to get through these times and online learning.”

However, Altea said she cannot connect with her peers as well as she would during in-person classes.

“I miss walking through the halls during the passing period,” Altea said. “You would run into random people, and that’s where conversations would happen. Also, if you get to class early, then you just talk with the people around you, and that’s how friendships solidified and grew.”

Although she will not be returning to in-person instruction this semester, Altea said she understands the importance of her school’s precautionary plan for reopening and is optimistic about returning to in-person instruction one day.

“I am optimistic that one day it will get better. I know the school really cares about students’ health, so I know that they will take any necessary steps in order to return back safely,” Altea said. 

Further information about schools reopening can be found in LAUSD’s Return to Campus Family Guide.