Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday that when the 2020-21 academic year starts August 18 it will not be with students at school facilities, owing to concerns about the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the city and across much of the country.
The decision came after city’s teachers union last week called for district campuses to remain closed and online learning to continue when the school year begins. The UTLA union also issued a report that indicated reopening will be difficult at any time in the near future.
“We made the decision to close school facilities before there was any occurrence of the virus at our schools, and this proved to be the right call,” Buetner said today in a press release announcing the decision. “Science was our guide then, and it will continue to be. Unfortunately, Covid-19 continues to spread in the Los Angeles area and the virus is going to impact how we start the new school year.”
He added: “The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise.”
The teachers union’s stance, which mirrors the national American Federation of Teachers, came before President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet over the weekend that federal funds for schools could be tied to students being required to be on campus to start the school year.
“Now that we have witnessed it on a large scale basis, and firsthand, Virtual Learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning,” he wrote. “Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won’t!!!
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said on Fox News Sunday that she intends to have students back in classrooms this fall.
“Parents are expecting that this fall their kids are going to have a full-time experience with their learning, and we need to follow through on that promise,” she said. She added that it’s “not a matter of if,” but a “matter of how.”
On Sunday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Sunday reported 18 new deaths and 3,322 new cases of COVID-19. Excluding the 4,015 new cases reported on July 7, which included a significant portion of backlog, it is the highest single-day total to date in the region that includes Los Angeles, Pasadena and Long Beach.