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LAUSD heads back to school with 20 new campuses

August 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Valley Region Elementary School No. 13 in Panorama City was one of 20 schools to open its doors for the first time to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District as a new school year began Tuesday.

The district-wide start came three weeks earlier than usual. But Superintendent John Deasy says it's all to help high school students with their college applications and should have a positive impact on grades.

"Students will end on a traditional semester this year so that everyone will have taken their exams before winter break," Deasy said. "Obviously that is a huge competitive opportunity for students preparing for college applications, which is all of our high schools, and that is an enormous help for our students, and families will have the same calendar."

Because of the early start, school will end early on May 31.

Students were also greeted by a thriving heat wave. But the district said it is prepared to help students battle the heat using computerized air systems in classrooms. A computer in each of the classrooms monitors the temperature of the room and automatically adjusts the thermostat as needed.

Should those defenses fail, schools are ready with fans and bottled water for students. While an AC failure is unlikely, the LAUSD's Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter says they're ready just in case.

"Obviously the focus has been to test the systems and make sure everything was running when it's set up," he said. "But if there is an event that we get a call for air conditioning during this time of year, it takes our No. 1 priority." Hovatter added that money has also been put into older campuses to bring those cooling systems up to code.

Along with the heat, safety was also a priority. Los Angeles Police Department officials spoke at Haskell Elementary to warn students and drivers to be careful on the roads throughout the school year.

"To the children walking to school: Make sure you use the sidewalk. If you're going to cross the street, make sure it's in an intersection, don't cross mid-block. And when you approach the school, take advantage of the crossing guards," said LAPD Commander James Cansler.

There are also a few changes to otherwise traditional procedures this year. All seventh graders are now required to get their Tdap shots before school begins. In the past, that requirement was reserved for kindergarten through sixth graders. Also, the cost for school lunches is going up about 50 cents this year, and all the new campuses are equipped with free Wi-Fi. The district says it is planning to extend the luxury to most of its older campuses.


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