By Dafna Erana and Angela Guglielmino
Three elementary schools in Northeast Los Angeles — Dahlia Heights in Eagle Rock, Aragon Avenue in Cypress Park and Loreto Street in Montecito Heights — are among the 61 elementary schools that will reopen to students the week of April 12. The remaining elementary schools in the L.A. Unified School District will open the week of April 19 and middle schools and high schools will open the week of April 26, according to a letter from LAUSD’s Superintendent Austin Beutner
Gradually reopening schools over a few weeks is crucial to make the process as smooth as possible, said NELA’s LAUSD Board member Jackie Goldberg.
“This gives us a week to find out what the glitches are in the system before the rest of the elementary schools come on April 19,” Goldberg said. “That’s really important because I don’t care what anyone says — no one has done this before. We’re all doing this for the first time, there are going to be glitches. I’d rather have glitches in 60 or 70 schools than in 400 elementary schools.”
Still, for LAUSD students, there will not be a return to normalcy any time soon. Elementary school students in the district have two options. The first option is to take classes on campus five days a week, either in the morning, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., or the afternoon, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The other option is to keep taking their classes online from home.
LAUSD middle and high school students will have the option to be on campus two to three days a week in addition to taking classes online from home.
“We’ve changed all the air filters, and they’re now like wearing an N95 mask. We’ve opened windows that haven’t been opened in 50 years, we’ve moved desks out and we’ve provided double the amount of custodians per school,” Goldberg said. “I’m a grandparent of seven kids in LAUSD schools, and all of them are returning.”
Conversely, Eagle Rock parent Heather Hemingway has one son at Eagle Rock Junior-Senior High School, two sons at Dahlia Heights Elementary and a toddler — and she said her kids will not return to in-person school this spring.
“Maybe if my husband and I could get vaccinated we’d consider [letting the kids return to school],” Hemingway said.
Hemingway said if she did send her kids back to school now she would have safety concerns.
“There are six of us that live in one household. If my kids get [COVID-19] and then bring it home to my husband and me, and let’s say that my husband and I get really severe cases. Who is there to take care of my children?” Hemingway said.
Biology teacher at Eagle Rock High School, Brenda Malec, said she is slightly disappointed with the current structure for in-person classes. She said she and her colleagues will be in-person only with their advisory students — basically, their homeroom students. The students will receive instruction via Zoom while sitting in the homeroom.
“When we all heard we were reopening without really knowing the schedule, we assumed we would get to see some of our students,” Malec said. “As a teacher, I think that has been the hardest: knowing we’re going to go back into the classroom and then not having our actual students.”
Franklin High School in Highland Park will also place students who choose to return to a physical classroom in a room with their advisory teacher, and those students will attend Zoom classes with their academic teachers, according to the school’s dean, Dr. Maria Grace Martinez.
“It will be different, but it will teach us and make us realize that things are not always the same, and everyone needs to be flexible and know how to adjust and evolve with the changing environmental conditions,” Martinez said via email. “I have taught myself to accept these changes and find meaning in the things that we can still have, value or control.”
Eagle Rock High School senior Edriana Altea said one of the positive outcomes of online learning is that it has allowed her to strengthen her connections with her teachers.
“My teachers are always there and I feel like they’re all willing to go the extra mile to provide support with office hours and in class,” Altea said. “That kind of support makes it very manageable to get through these times and online learning.”
However, Altea said she cannot connect with her peers as well as she would during in-person classes.
“I miss walking through the halls during the passing period,” Altea said. “You would run into random people, and that’s where conversations would happen. Also, if you get to class early, then you just talk with the people around you, and that’s how friendships solidified and grew.”
Although she will not be returning to in-person instruction this semester, Altea said she understands the importance of her school’s precautionary plan for reopening and is optimistic about returning to in-person instruction one day.
“I am optimistic that one day it will get better,” Altea said. “I know the school really cares about students’ health, so I know that they will take any necessary steps in order to return back safely.”
Further information about schools reopening can be found in LAUSD’s Return to Campus Family Guide.
Dafna Erana, a senior at Occidental College, and Angela Guglielmino, a sophomore at Occidental, are participants in the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership, a collaboration between the Boulevard Sentinel and The Occidental campus newspaper.
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