The Status of School Reopenings
By now, many of you have heard that the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) and the teachers union, UTLA, reached an agreement to reopen schools. Although this sounds like a definitive statement, many of the details have yet to be worked out, and what “reopening” will look like may not be what you envision.
Superintendent Beutner said in his March 15, 2021 address that the target for reopening schools remains after spring break or mid-April for preschool and elementary school students. Beutner also stated that in-person services will open at that time for “students with learning difficulties and disabilities, and the end of April for secondary schools.”
The precise timing for full reopening will be a function of the number of vaccine doses made available by County and State authorities to vaccinate school staff. However, all schools will use a hybrid instructional model for safety reasons and to allow for cleaning between morning and afternoon sessions. The online-only instructional model will also remain available.
Educators’ participation in providing in-person support remains voluntary. Individual educators may have health concerns that make them unwilling to provide in-person support until the community achieves herd-immunity. Each educator can make their personal choice according to their individual needs.
On the anniversary of the LAUSD shuttering schools, parents protested for a better reopening plan than the partial reopening plan currently proposed. According to an early survey and based on only 10% returns, parent preference as to returning or staying with only distance learning varies widely depending on how hard Covid-19 has hit the community. It appears that parents in harder-hit communities, primarily at the elementary school level, are opting to have their child remain with full remote learning for at least the rest of the school year as concerns about Covid-19 remain.
LAUSD published its reopening guide here: FAMILY GUIDE Spring Edition 2021
As for your child with an IEP, if you are asking about related services, services are now available in-person where it has been determined that the student is unable to access the service in a virtual distance learning environment ” according to LAUSD. The term “as appropriate” lacks the specificity that most parents want when seeking services for their special needs student. That is because the availability of related in-person services may vary depending on the school site and on your child’s individual needs.
The LAUSD website directs parents to either call their individual school or School Family Support Services. Unfortunately, in at least one case, SFSS told a parent that SFSS did not know why their number was included and directed the parent to call their child’s school, despite their explicit inclusion:
Beginning on Thursday, March 4, 2021, the District will resume voluntary in-person services for our students with disabilities. These services include tutoring, special education assessments, and in-person related services, as appropriate. Also, the District will continue to provide all other on-going virtual instruction, assessments, and related services. For more information regarding in-person services please contact your child’s school site administrator or call the School Family Support Services line at (213) 241- 6701.
From what we have seen and heard from clients, the schools themselves do not know what “in-person” services means. For example, one parent with a child requiring a one-to-one shadow was told that if she returns to her special day class, her aide will not be able to get closer than 6 feet – even though the IEP provides for “hand-over-hand” direction and requires proximity for “safety” issues.
LAUSD states that the District will work to address each situation on a case-by-case basis for Students with disabilities (or health conditions) who cannot wear a mask at all or cannot wear the mask correctly. If the student participates in person, the District will determine how best to support the student to keep them and other students safe.
For those students planning to return, LAUSD will be utilizing a web-based program, Daily Pass, to monitor COVID testing and answer Daily Health Check questions. Children will need to participate in testing the week prior to returning to school, and then weekly once enrolled. The District stated in a March 18, 2021 letter:
An important component of our health and safety practices is that all students and staff will be provided with weekly free COVID tests at schools. We encourage you to start getting your student familiar with testing and the use of Daily Pass this coming week in preparation for school reopening. As you may already know, Daily Pass is a one-stop-shop digital tool that help students, employees and their families schedule COVID tests and answer the Daily Health Check screening questions which are part of a safe return to schools. The Daily Pass will make entrance to schools quicker and safer.
The words “Feasible,” “Appropriate,” and “Case-by-Case” appear frequently on LAUSD’s website in regards to the reopening plan. The ongoing uncertainty tells us that many questions remain with few answers, leaving parents, especially those whose children have IEPs, very concerned their child will be left further behind. If you have concerns, please fill out our request for consultation form.
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