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Did LAUSD make the right decision in keeping schools open?

Image via CNN, Aude Guerrucci/Reuters

The first weeks of February have already been a whirlwind with various atmospheric rivers hitting California, leading 40% of students to stay home on Monday, February 5th. Of course, in sunny L.A. we don’t typically receive this harsh weather, and we’ve never experienced the “snow days” we see in the movies. So this inclement weather proved to be an opportunity for a day off, and I’m sure many students (including myself) shared the hope for a free day. However, the last time LAUSD faced a weather issue, their decision to close backfired.

Back in August of last year, we underwent a historic tropical storm, Hurricane Hilary, that prompted the closure of schools. However, on that morning, it barely drizzled in most areas and conditions were overall safe for students. This time around, the storm was much more severe, with nonstop rain hitting California mercilessly. Emergency alerts were sent to phones throughout California, warning people of potential flash floods, and mudslides, and even ordering evacuations. Many roads were deemed unsafe for travel, as debris and flooding made roads impossible to cross. Both Mayor Karen Bass and Governor Gavin Newsom issued emergency declarations in certain areas. They urged ALL Angelinos to stay home. So, why didn’t LAUSD shut down schools this time?

In a press conference, Superintendent Carvalho announced that LAUSD schools (with two exceptions) would remain open despite the harsh weather conditions. The main reason for this decision was that “students depend on nutrition at school.” Still, families were urged to make the ultimate decision as to whether they would send their children to school based on their circumstances. 

In Eagle Rock, we didn’t get much more than some heavy rain. Because our campus has so much greenery, it does get pretty muddy and there are wet leaves everywhere. Not to mention the storm drains spew out rainwater, practically creating mini-lakes. We’re lucky that the big drain outside the tennis courts didn’t get clogged, flood the area, and create a mini-pond, as we’ve seen before.

Image via LAUSD

However, LAUSD has a great reach, so conditions here are not the same as conditions in Downtown or Carson, for instance. Just as the map shows, LAUSD controls a big chunk of Los Angeles and surrounding counties, even having many schools along southern California’s coast. We definitely did not experience flooding on our roads or dangerous debris, to a great extent. However, various other regions with LAUSD schools experienced downed trees, mudslides, house damage, and even deaths. If conditions were so dangerous, why would LAUSD want students to attend school?

Consider the following images. Here you can see flooded streets and damage to roads and homes, things dangerous to drivers and pedestrians alike. These images were photographed in Ventura and Studio City, two places that fall under LAUSD’s jurisdiction.

Image via The Washington Post, Michael Robinson Chavez
Image via The Washington Post, Michael Robinson Chavez

Some districts took an opposite approach to LAUSD’s. According to the LA Times, many Coastal schools as well as various CSU campuses reverted to online learning for the day. It’s important to note that many of these universities fall within LAUSD boundaries, so on a day when adults were urged to work remotely (if possible) and college students were asked to learn from home, why were L.A.’s children and teens told to go to school in person? As I mentioned, most students would jump at the chance to stay home from school, but I know the headaches that come with missing a day of instruction, including make-up work and clearing absences, so missing a day voluntarily as we were given the option isn’t as simple as it seems. 

The perfect decision can never be made. Closing down the second-largest US public school system is not a decision to be made lightly.  Now, in these inclement weather situations, we are Californians, above all. Especially those of us from Los Angeles: We aren’t comfortable with this weather due to our lack of experience. And, because of that, the dangers that arise from this downpour are elevated. So, did LAUSD make the right choice in keeping schools open? It was not a matter of food, as the district has proven that “nutrition” can be provided without instruction, as it was distributed during the pandemic. 

It’s evident that life-threatening conditions existed, and considering LAUSD’s span it would have been safer for everyone to simply stay home on a dreary day like this. After all, the safety of L.A.’s students is much more important than attendance dollars. 


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