Coronavirus: LAUSD to hold emergency meeting, discuss possible closures

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Unified School District, which has already declared a state of emergency over novel coronavirus, has called an emergency school board meeting Friday morning to possibly discuss further action.

School districts throughout Southern California have already announced plans to temporarily close or shift to online instruction as part of nationwide efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The LAUSD teachers union is calling on the district to follow those examples.

"We are calling for the rapid, accelerated, and humane closure of LAUSD schools," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. "Other countries have shown that a proactive - not reactive - approach slows the spread of the virus, makes sure healthcare providers are not crushed with overwhelming demand, and dramatically reduces fatalities."

LAUSD made an emergency declaration earlier this week, but that didn't require the closing of schools. The district has not had any known coronavirus cases in students, but the district has already been exploring options as a precaution.

The emergency the declaration authorizes Superintendent Austin Beutner to "to take any and all actions necessary to ensure the continuation of public education," including relocating students and staff and provide alternative educational program options.'' It also provides employees with paid leaves of absence due to quarantine.

The decision gives the superintendent the authority to take quick action without waiting for board approval, and gives Beutner the power to shut down schools or classes if the coronavirus becomes an issue in the district.

On Wednesday, the district canceled all large student and staff gatherings, including off-campus visits by students and staff to public places where crowds may gather. Student events and competitions may continue, but without spectators, the district said.

In addition, use of school facilities by outside organizations is canceled, and anyone who traveled outside the country in the past 14 days is not allowed on school campuses or in administrative offices.

LAUSD remains on a regular schedule for now, but as coronavirus continues to spread, plans are underway in case schools have to close.

Coronavirus: Los Angeles Unified School District taking precautions amid outbreak
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The Los Angeles Unified School District released a video Tuesday outlining the precautions it is taking to prevent children and adults from catching the COVID-19 coronavirus.



"Kids belong in school and for working parents, they need to be with supervision. In my case, we sometimes don't have access to internet, said Patricia Trujillo, a parent of LAUSD students.

Trujillo lives in Venice with her two sons who are in the 8th grade. She says she wouldn't be able to stop working if school is closed and is worried her kids wouldn't be as productive.

"At the end of the day, they're kids and if they might want to pay attention or might not be focused and would rather be playing basketball," she said.

If coronavirus closes school, Trujillo's sons would possibly learn on tablets the district is trying to purchase. They've asked the state for $50 million dollars to cover the cost.

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Beutner has also reached out to companies like AT&T and Verizon to assist with connectivity. Many LAUSD families don't have home Wi-Fi or computers.

"We can pre-populate devices with some learning, but unless we have that two way communication, we would be limited in some of the instruction we can do," Beutner said.

Beutner says frequent hand washing and good hygiene practices are already taking place and the emergency declaration will allow for more resources to clean schools top to bottom.

Thousands of LAUSD students rely on the district for food, something that wouldn't be stopped if schools close.

"We serve over a million meals a day. I don't think it's likely we'll deliver to home, but we have more than a 1,000 campuses throughout the community," Beutner said. "I think there's ways we could keep those safe for distributing lifeline supplies."

If school is closed but parents still have to go to work, Beutner says that's not just a LAUSD problem, but a city, county and state problem that would need to be addressed together.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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