As the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) prepares to shut its doors for two weeks starting Monday, a unique partnership with local PBS stations will offer students tailored educational programming on three over-the-air broadcasts and a range of digital options.
KCET and PBS SoCal – the Southern California flagship PBS organizations that merged two years ago – have been working closely with Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner for the past week to create three local educational broadcasts: for KCET, PBS SoCal and KLCS, a smaller PBS station owned by LAUSD.
The LA stations also brought in San Francisco PBS member KQED to lead the development of digital resources that align to state standards and develop a curriculum through PBS LearningMedia, a national digital resource that offers content to support educational assignments. KQED will host online training sessions for Los Angeles Unified teachers on how to use PBS LearningMedia.
Educational content will also stream on the PBS SoCal and KCET websites, on the free KCET app – available on Roku and Apple TV – and on the PBS Video app, also available on Roku, Apple TV as well as Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Google Play and YouTube.
KCET and PBS SoCal CEO Andrew Russell said the measures will allow 700,000 local Los Angeles Unified students in diverse communities across more than 700 square miles access to educational resources starting Monday regardless of their broadband access.
“As cornerstone institutions in our community, PBS SoCal and KCET have a mission to connect communities so we’re already talking to stations throughout the state, and even across the country, to follow our model.” He said national PBS is making the three Los Angeles stations’ daily broadcast schedules available on its Interconnection system, which allows all PBS stations across the country to pluck then from the cloud and air them.
PBS SoCal programming will engage the pre-K through second grade set. KLCS is targeting grades 3 to 8, and KCET grades 9 to 12. PBS SoCal and KCET will revert to regular scheduled programming in primetime. KLCS will continue to air a mix of pre-K through grade 12 content throughout the evening and overnight. The stations’ digital channels will feature additional educational programming.
“We have two weeks of programming planned and will take it from there,” Russell said.
LAUSD is the second biggest district in the nation after New York. The over-the-air element is key because about 80% of students are from families living in poverty, PBS SoCal said. An estimated 50% of students in Los Angeles Unified lack the digital tools – computer or tablet – to participate in online curriculum and 25% of families lack access to the internet at home.
Russell said the design of the initiative only started on Monday after Superintendent Beutner reached out to Paula Kerger, CEO of PBS in Washington D.C. and to Russell. Beutner asked the team from PBS to work with the instructional team at Los Angeles Unified to come up with the best standards-based instructional content they could find with rigorous lesson plans. Educators and families also gave input.
Russell said about 100 educational directors from PBS stations around the country joined him on a conference call today to discuss the Los Angeles initiative and “how we could build a national collaboration to serve our communities” as more and more school districts begin to close around a nation gripped by fear of the spreading coronavirus.
“We want to continue to provide the best possible education for our students, while we work to evaluate the significant number of school closures for the next two weeks,” said Beutner. “So we asked PBS to work with us with a simple goal: We know what good looks like, let’s find a way to share it with our students.”