LAUSD takes precautions amid rapid spread of coronavirus

Teachers' union calls for schools to close.

Sara Marquez

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
The coronavirus has spread rapidly, with over 134,769 cases worldwide and 1,762 cases in the United States.

As the chaos unfolds and the public continues to panic about the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is taking steps to keep students safe by ensuring that teachers are prepared for possible school closures.

In a Twitter Livestream on March 12, the United Teachers for Los Angeles (UTLA) highly suggested that LAUSD close all schools as soon as possible. Colleges and universities, including UCLA and CSUN, have switched to online instruction to avoid in-person contact.  There are now almost 200 cases of the coronavirus in California and one person has died in Los Angeles County.

“Though there have been no cases reported within LAUSD, we do know that this can spread exponentially,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “Therefore, today we are calling on LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner to proactively close all public and charter schools within LAUSD.”

As a precaution, Principal Pia Damonte asked teachers on Wednesday to gather two-weeks’ worth of lesson plans and create packets for students. In addition, they were asked to pick an online platform, either Schoology or Edgenuity, to prepare for the possible school closure. Paper packets will also be available.

“I think it was foreseeable, somehow it’s kind of like it came down to that so mentally I had already been brainstorming what kind of things I could give my students,” Spanish teacher Glenda Hurtado said.

Until further notice, the schools will continue to be in session. Considering the flood of information being given to administrators and teachers, they are continuously informing both students and parents of any changes made and any immediate news of the virus. 

“As soon as I get communication whether it’s a letter or resources to send out, I send it out,” Damonte said. “We’ve posted everything on the website and are trying to post on social media.”

After the Los Angeles Board of Education declared a state of emergency on March 10, LAUSD took the initiative to start procedures in case of school closures. Although it has not fully been confirmed that schools will be closing, teachers and staff are finding any resources possible to continue instruction.

We are implementing, effective immediately, a series of steps based on recommendations from public health officials,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said in an email sent to LAUSD families on March 11. 

On March 11, LAUSD Division Director Antonio Aguilar sent an email to teachers and parents informing them of the cancellation of any local field trips. Along with these events, any and all sports events may resume with the exception that there can not be any spectators. All out-of-state field trips were canceled on March 5.

Many of the students, particularly the seniors, have growing concerns over how this will affect the upcoming events in their final year of high school. Events like Grad Night and prom are in the near future for these seniors and COVID-19 has installed a fear that these unforgettable memories will be stripped from them although no confirmed information has been given. According to Damonte, these events haven’t been canceled yet but that decision is unpredictable. 

Students of all grades are also very concerned about how this will affect their education as a whole. Considering that this will be a sudden change from interactive to online classes.

“I think it (online classes) would slow us down tremendously for the fact that it’s taking us from a certain environment that we experience every day, especially how the teacher teaches us and how we receive it is going to be completely different,” senior Larry Chavez said.

Although this is an unpredictable event, LAUSD and the rest of its administrators are doing anything in their capability to protect their students and the community that surrounds them. 

“Obviously parents are calling left and right and rightfully so… we’re doing the best to protecting the environment here,” Damonte said.