Students in the Los Angeles School District reported for their first day of school Tuesday. It was a particular milestone for Miramonte Elementary School which dealt with a sex abuse scandal when two teachers were accused of abusing students. Patrick Healy reports from South Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on August 14, 2012.
Thousands of students headed back to school on Tuesday -- about three weeks earlier than usual -- under a new calendar officials hope will improve grades.
The early-start calendar allows students to complete their first semester prior to winter break, which has been shown to have a positive impact on final examinations.
Under the early calendar, the last day of the 2012/2013 school year will be May 31, 2013.
Among the campuses starting classes on Tuesday was Miramonte Elementary School, where a sex scandal broke in the winter.
Two teachers were arrested on sex abuse charges and LA schools Superintendent John Deasy took the unprecedented step of removing all the other teachers while officials investigated whether there were any other allegations of abuse.
A new principal was installed and 38 teachers, who were initially removed, were allowed to return to the campus on Tuesday.
Deasy and the new principal, Marta Contreras, said restoring trust was the biggest priority.
“The parents’ faith has been with us,” Deasy said. “We have taken care of students who were victimized … We are very clear when responding to an adult who does things that are totally inappropriate -- we fire them and then we work with officials to prosecute them, and we support the schools, just like we’ve been doing.”
Contreras said Miramonte teachers will hold a community meeting next month with parents to talk about the school's renewed mission in the wake of the arrests of former Miramonte teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer, who face sex abuse charges in court this week.
On Tuesday, Miramonte boasted 93 percent attendance and Contreras said parents will be allowed to visit their children's classrooms.
The teachers, meanwhile, who were removed from the school in a controversial move, and were sent back on Tuesday, wanted to move forward.
"Personally, I didn't do anything," said Andrea Schaffer, a teacher who returned to the school on Tuesday. "And I don't really feel badly. I'm going to come out here ... I'm going to be happy to be here."
Parents were cautiously optimistic about sending their children back to school there.
Parent Patricia Andrade said she will remind her child to be careful.
"If they see something strange, tell us," she said.
Officials hope the new school calendar will give students a stronger competitive advantage because they’ll be able to complete all their classes in a semester that finishes before winter break, Deasy said.
It’s one of several changes at Los Angeles Unified School District Schools this year, including a revamped menu that cuts down on sugar and salt and a new breakfast menu at 279 LAUSD elementary schools.
“We’re really trying to balance out the students’ palates, along with the nutritional content that we’re required to meet by the USDA,” said Enrique Boull’t, LAUSD’s chief operating officer.
The district has also cut down on overcrowding as 20 new schools have opened this year, adding 129 seats, said Monica Garcia, the LAUSD School Board president.
“We do not have overcrowding in Los Angeles,” she said. “We do not have forced busing. We used to have 227 schools on year-round. Now we are down to three that started in July.”