January 19, 2022


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Many LAUSD students won’t return to campus, early survey results say

About half of Los Angeles Unified students will not be returning to campus, based on early, partial results of a parent survey, with more wariness expressed in communities hard hit by COVID-19 and among families with older students, whose return options include no escape from online learning.

The parent survey, begun last week, is far from complete but provides an early look at preferences among the families of 465,000 kindergarten through 12th graders in the nation’s second-largest school system. So far, about 10% of parents have submitted the surveys, which ask families to select between remaining in full remote learning or returning to campus for about half the time starting in about mid-April or later.

Overall, 51% of those responding chose the in-person hybrid option. Among grade levels, 62% favored a return at the elementary level, 44% at middle school and 33% at high school.

The district on Monday also released a snapshot by community, indicating that harder-hit areas were more reluctant to send children back. This difference shows up primarily at the elementary school level in areas highlighted by the district. For instance, in Florence-Firestone/Watts, 43% of students would be returning. That area has a COVID-19 death rate of 279 residents per 100,000, according to data released by the district, and a vaccination rate of only 7%.

By contrast, in West L.A., with a much lower death rate and much higher vaccination rate, 77% of students would go back, including 88% of elementary students.

Several factors could account for these differences at the various age levels. For one, distance learning is generally more difficult for younger children, and the need to provide child care to allow parents to return to work is especially acute.

In addition, the program being offered is more like normal school for the younger students — who would return to campus Monday through Friday for a three-hour session. Elementary school students also would have access to supervision outside of those three hours, covering the period from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For middle school, the supervision remains available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but there will be limited to no in-person interaction with a teacher for a student’s academic instruction.

High school students can return to campus in a schedule that alternates weeks with two and three days on campuses, but it won’t resemble traditional instruction.

At the secondary level, students will spend the class day in one classroom supervised by one teacher, who likely will not be teaching them. In that setting, each student will log on for the same online learning classes they would otherwise be carrying out at home. The instructor, meanwhile, would be teaching online, but not necessarily to any of the students in the room.

The union and district agreed to the secondary school format as a way to keep students in small stable groups. The goal was to limit potential spread of the virus and also to avoid changing master schedules, which are complex at the middle and high school levels.

Under health guidelines, schools are allowed to permit students to move from class to class, with the county recommending that groups of students potentially interacting to not exceed 100.