The Long Beach Unified School District has announced that it will continue distance learning through Jan. 28. The LBUSD, which began classes on Sept. 1, had previously stated it would be online only through at least Oct. 5.
Superintendent Jill Baker announced the extension on Thursday afternoon.
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Here’s the full letter from Baker:
Good afternoon Long Beach Unified Staff and Community,
The start of the new school year has been very different for all of us in the Long Beach Unified community. For staff, no matter what your role, you have had to be flexible, innovative and patient. For families, you have had to support your children in new ways, balance the demands of work with supporting your students’ learning and continue to navigate life in a global pandemic.
I am here today to communicate our district decision to extend our distance learning through our first semester of the year, which continues until January 28th. But, I don’t just want to tell you that. I would like to communicate some additional information that contributed to this decision.
One of the hardest things about navigating through this pandemic is that we cannot see its end. The neverending feeling is hard on all of us as we try to make decisions in the best interest of our students, while protecting everyone’s health and safety.
Through the months of summer, and as we entered into the start of the school year, we have continued to hold regular meetings with Long Beach Health and Human Services, participate in updates from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and, with their guidance, we have refined our COVID response protocols. Because we have operated central offices, preschool classrooms and conducted work on school campuses throughout the months of summer, we have had to respond to COVID in the workplace. Until there is a vaccine for the virus, every organization and workplace must be prepared to respond to COVID rather than believe that COVID will never impact its community.
As you are likely aware, the health data in Los Angeles County has generally improved, even though we are not off of the state watch list. This means that Long Beach Unified is still not authorized to consider the opening of schools for in-person learning.
In order for a county to come off of the state watch list:
- The county must show that fewer than 100 people per 100,000 have tested positive for the virus.
- The rate at which people test positive for the virus must be below 8 percent.
- The number of people hospitalized must not climb more than 10 percent over a three-day period.
- More than 20 percent of intensive care beds in hospitals and 25 percent of ventilators have to be available.
The health data in Long Beach has stabilized but still presents significant challenges to returning students to in person learning, thus our decision to extend distance learning based on consultation with health officials. We will continue to plan for potential phasing in of some student support services and some limited in-class instruction prior to the end of the first semester. As with all of our plans during the pandemic, these plans will require constant monitoring and the flexibility to shift direction based on what transpires in our community.
I have been asked by some members of the community why we are not opening schools, when according to some sources, students don’t easily contract COVID. While the answer is more complex than a simple statement, the summary is that schools do not operate without a significant number of adults, and when we convene large groups of adults and students in any one location, there is a higher likelihood of contributing to the spread of a communicable disease. In addition, because without a vaccine, COVID will likely continue to be spread in our community, we believe that not perpetuating a cycle of opening and closing classrooms and schools will best contribute to stabilizing the learning experience for our students, and will allow parents to plan for the coming weeks and months.
Only one decision over the past six months felt easy. That was the decision to serve breakfast, lunch and supper at our schools in order to ensure that all of our students have access to meals, even while school buildings are not open for instruction.
We will continue to provide you with updates in the days ahead, particularly on any plans that we are able to activate to phase in student support services or in limited in-class instruction.
I have visited a number of schools over the past week and have been inspired by every staff members’ commitment to connecting with students and providing the care that students need during this difficult time in our community. Teachers are busy welcoming students into new Canvas classrooms, first focusing on ensuring that students feel connected and able to learn. Support staff are reaching out to families to provide Chromebooks and hot spots and to find students who have not yet reported back to school. While we’re pleased that our online attendance numbers are approaching the numbers we might see during a normal school year, we’re still committed to making sure every one of our students is connected and learning. All of these efforts make a difference for students and our community at large.
I know for sure that the days ahead will continue to challenge us as a community. I also know that it will be our ability to stick together, in support of one another, that will get us to the other side of the pandemic. I will continue to hold hope for a better time in LBUSD when we can return to our beloved schools, where the magic of teaching and learning can once again be present in every classroom across our city.