The April 13th live update from Superintendent Austin Beutner sent a wave of shock through LA Unified students. Just one month before, on March 13th, students were told they would be sent home for only two weeks, and were given their temporary, at-home learning packet. A few days later, their “temporary” homeschooling was extended into mid-April, then May, and finally, as of April 13th, it was decided that it will continue throughout the summer as COVID-19 incites fear in the community. LAUSD is the second largest school district in the country, and while there was some expectation of school closures through the school year, the news caused massive disturbance in local communities, especially for seniors who are losing their last few months of high school. In terms of testing, actions that students never thought would be taken are being put into play; mandatory standardized tests are being cancelled, AP testing will take place online and be reformatted, and International Baccalaureate (Diploma Programme) testing has officially been cancelled by the IB.
But this wasn’t the only news that came with the update. Beutner announced a number of other significant changes to the school year, the most significant of which has spread like wildfire; no failing grades will be given. Just before the initial closures in mid-March, LAUSD asked for a significant amount of money from the state to ensure all students who needed access to online learning would be able to take home a Chromebook. Yet this wasn’t an entirely effective measure, as a number of students are still unable to participate due to personal circumstances. The intention of implementing the “No Failing Grades” Modification was to ensure students who aren’t in situations where they can effectively continue learning online “will not be penalized by circumstances.” In short, students cannot receive a grade lower than that of March 13th, though teachers may provide opportunities for students to raise their grades if necessary.
The district is also taking action to provide support for families in need at this time, which comes in the form of informational videos, family help desks, and community town halls. LA Unified schools will also continue to provide meals for their communities and is maintaining a mental health hotline for those who need it. It was also announced that more than half of LAUSD teachers have participated in additional training to learn how to best teach remotely. This is in response to the 6.3 million students who are being forced into online education during this global pandemic. Measures are being taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and families in the district, both for the maintenance of students’ physical and mental health.
Although our school year will end socially distanced, and many of our opportunities are limited, now is a great time to keep pushing forward. Beutner says, “Back to school after a break for students usually means smiles and hugs from friends they missed seeing. Well, this year it’s a bit different. But we welcome our school community back with open arms to finish a semester filled with discovery and learning.”