Thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District students are failing to take part in online classes offered since campuses were closed due to the coronavirus, while the district continues working to provide internet connections for families that need it, Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday
"There is an urgent need to act, as the absence from school creates hardship for students, loss of stability and friendships, loss of learning and loss of a big part of their social safety net," Beutner said. "Connecting all students as soon as we can must be the goal."
Out of about 120,000 high school students, roughly 15,000 have had no online contact with their classrooms since schools were closed about two weeks ago, Beutner said.
Almost 2,000 high school students were connected through the district's internet program in the past few days, Buetner said. But even with the technology upgrades, only about 68% of all high school students are participating in studies online, meaning about 40,000 are not, he said.
Beutner said many of the students not participating are from low- income households or foster families, students who have learning disabilities or students who had attendance problems before the coronavirus outbreak.
The district is trying to make sure its roughly 500,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students are able to connect to online learning, and it is training its 75,000 employees on how to use the online platforms.
"Imagine trying to change the seats on an airplane and maybe some of the wiring while continuing to fly at 30,000 feet in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm in a plane low on fuel," Beutner said. "The shift to online learning in our schools is a bit more difficult than that."
LAUSD has been distributing internet connection devices and laptops for students who need them throughout the district since last week.
The school district reached a $100 million emergency agreement with Verizon Wireless that will provide free internet to students whose families cannot afford such infrastructure.
Beutner said the district is providing training for students, teachers and families on how to use the educational devices such as Schoology and communications technologies like Zoom and Google Meet Up.
Teachers have been altering their lesson plans to accommodate the online platform.
The superintendent said there could be a long-term benefit to the challenges, as students will be required to become more familiar with using the internet and remote technology.