Boosting attendance top of mind as LAUSD students return to classes

Jaysha Patel Image
Monday, August 14, 2023
Boosting attendance top of mind as LAUSD students return to classes
Nearly 500,000 LAUSD students returned to classes on Monday and there's a long list of goals Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has set out to accomplish this year.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Nearly 500,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District returned to classes on Monday and there's a long list of goals Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has set out to accomplish this year.

As parents woke up bright and early, many may have received a phone call from the district featuring a recorded message from Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, giving them an encouraging boost for the first day.

So what's the main focus for the 2023-24 school year? "Speed and accelerating success," Carvalho said.

Boosting attendance

Since returning to in-person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. schools have seen record high levels of student absences.

Carvalho spent time last week visiting the homes of students to encourage them to attend classes as part of his annual iAttend campaign. He wants to increase average daily attendance by 5%.

"We had two days of iAttend this year. We knocked on about 2,000 doors. We have about three additional days over the next weeks and months," said the superintendent. "It's critically important. A year and a half ago when I first arrived here, chronic absenteeism was about 50%. That means that 50% of our kids were absent from school 10 or more days."

LAUSD's Chief Medical Director Dr. Smita Malhotra said her advice on keeping children home from school is "similar to what was in place pre-pandemic," according to a statement issued on Aug. 12 posted on the district's website.

"It is not practical for working parents to keep children home from school for every runny nose, nor is it in the best interest of children to continue to miss school after pandemic school closures," she wrote. "If your child has a mild runny nose or cold symptoms that are not bothering them, and they test negative for COVID-19, send them to school. Your child can wear a mask at school when they have these mild symptoms."

This year, there are more 4-year-olds on campus after LAUSD expanded it Universal Transitional Kindergarten program, also known as UTK, two years ahead of the state's mandated deadline.

"We began this process last year. We added 10,000 slots for UTK," said Carvalho. "That's 4-year-olds and some 3-year-olds. This year, we added an additional 15,000 slots."


The superintendent said the district will begin the school year fully staffed with educators.

Earlier this year, LAUSD reached new contract agreements with teachers and school staff.

The agreements followed a three-day strike staged by staffers -- and honored by teachers -- that shuttered district schools.

While the contracts were ratified, another dispute arose when the district initially proposed shortening the 2023-24 winter break to make up for lost instructional time.

The unions contested the move, saying it was never negotiated, and the district relented and will maintain a three-week winter break, beginning Dec. 18 and continuing through Jan. 5.

Student safety

There is also a renewed focus on safety this school year.

"We must do more in order for the students of Los Angeles and their families to feel and stay safe,'' said Mayor Karen Bass. I am working with Superintendent Carvalho to ensure that we confront and address the vehicular tragedies, substance abuse and other incidents that we have seen near and in our schools.''

Carvalho underscored the importance of the effort. "Last year, our students and families faced unsafe pedestrian passages to and from our campuses -- some experiencing injuries and others loss of life,'' he said. "Walking to school should not become a traumatic experience for our students.''

WATCH | Carvalho talks boosting pedestrian safety around LAUSD schools

"We cannot have a repeat of what we witnessed last year, both parents and children became victims of accidents that could've been avoided," said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

The district has hired a number of crossing guards, reaching the highest number in at least a decade, according to the LAUSD.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has created additional School Slow Zones at 45 schools using 576 signs to reduce speed limits; it has made street improvements including installing speed humps at 28 schools.

Drug use on campuses

The Los Angeles Police Department's Community Safety Partnership Bureau recently launched a pilot program for students, parents and school staff, focusing on the harms and risks associated with drugs, specifically fentanyl. The program includes educating staff on the functionality and proper usage of Narcan.

The last day of the school year will be June 11, 2024.

City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.