Lolita Lopez, Scott Spiro
Students returned to class Thursday at Miramonte Elementary School, where the entire staff was replaced following the arrests of two former teachers on charges of committing lewd acts with students.
Students accompanied by parents returned to classrooms at Miramonte Elementary Thursday after a two-day shutdown and the removal of the school's entire staff -- "unprecedented" actions taken after the arrest of two teachers accused of lewd acts involving children at the Florence school.
Parents were invited to sit with their children in class Thursday to help with the transition. They were allowed to attend the first 30 minutes of class.
"We want parents, as much as possible, to feel comfortable under the circumstances here," said Tom Waldman, director of communications for the school district. "It's unprecedented. This is a very devastating thing for everybody here. Hopefully, over time, we'll get back to the business of learning."
As students and parents arrived at the school around 7 a.m., the police tape was removed.
New staff members attended orientation at the school Wednesday. They met with outgoing staff members to discuss lesson plans as part of a move that has been met with mixed emotions.
Outside the school, teacher's union president Warren Fletcher called the move "a cheap media stunt."
"The teachers and the parents and the students of this community feel betrayed," Fletcher said. "It's crystal clear the LAUSD does not have a plan."
The removed staff members were transferred to Augustus Hawkins High School, a facility under construction in South Los Angeles. The Hawkins school is expected to open in the fall.
The outgoing staff members will be counseled and interviewed as part of the child abuse investigation. An independent commission led by retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Moreno will conduct the district's investigation. Former students and staff members at Miramonte also will be interviewed.
The new hires will cost the district $5.7 million, Waldman told the Los Angeles Times. The cash-strapped district will still pay the teachers and staff who were removed.
The school is under scrutiny after the arrests of former teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Bernard Springer. Berndt was arrested Jan. 30 and charged with lewd acts involving 23 children.
A film processor provided authorities with 40 images that showed the former teacher with children, some of whom had blindfolds over their eyes and spoons of semen held to their mouths.
Springer was arrested later that week. He was charged Tuesday with three felony counts of lewd acts upon a child.