The Los Angeles Unified School District is still targeting a mid-August start for the new school year after Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that some California schools might open as early as July, Superintendent Austin Beutner said Sunday.
All schools in the nation’s second-largest school district have been closed since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Beutner told NBC4's NewsConference that the 2020-2021 school year will begin Aug. 18, but it was not immediately clear whether students will return to classrooms at that time.
Last week, Gov. Newsom said California schools may start the new school year as early as late July. Beutner said the district's plan appears to be in line with what Newsom has said about reopening California schools.
“Science will guide us,” Beutner said Sunday. "Experts will tell us what’s safe and appropriate come Aug. 18."
The date is close to the district's 2019-2020 start date of Aug. 20.
Beutner has called for a "robust'' system of testing and contact tracing before schools could even begin reopening. Though details of what reopened schools would look like have not been provided, the return would be "a gradual process with a schedule and school day that may be different.''
Staggered schedules, increased spacing between desks and other scenarios are all possible once students return to classrooms, Beutner said.
Beutner said summer school programs will help minimize gaps in learning. After the district's 600 schools closed, the LAUSD launched remote learning and food aid distribution programs in hopes of thwarting the spread of COVID-19.
There were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in LAUSD schools when campuses closed in March, Beutner said.
"Safety is about making sure we are not the place that becomes a petri dish for this virus," Beutner said.
Online summer classes will begin in mid-June.
"The transition to online learning is our moonshot. It's that important and that difficult," Beutner said. "And like the astronauts on the Eagle, we'll all benefit from the learning when all are safely back home, or in the case of our students, safely back in the classroom."
Beutner said almost all LAUSD educators have completed training for teaching online and about half have signed up for additional 30-hour training, which begins this week.
"We've connected almost all of our secondary school students, providing them with a device and internet access, and in another week or 10 days, we will reach that goal for elementary school students. The emphasis now is to help teachers take their talents online," Beutner said.