LAUSD elementary students return to classrooms

Elementary classes begin in hybrid setting after pandemic pause

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Students at J.H. McGaugh Elementary school in Seal Beach waited in line to get hand sanitizer before entering classrooms on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, the first day of in-person classes on campus. Photo by Jeannette Andruss

Approximately 2,800 elementary school students on Tuesday became the first students to return to school campuses since a pandemic shut down the system five months ago. 

Administrators and teachers were prepped and ready to welcome returning students at the six elementary schools within the Los Alamitos Unified School District.

“We have longed for this day ever since we had to close our doors back in March. I am deeply proud of the extraordinary team effort that brought us back here. Months of planning and problem solving by a districtwide committee to make sure we could safely reunite,” said Supt. Andrew Pulver in a statement.

“Countless hours by teachers completely reimagining classroom instruction” were necessary for the reopening, he added.

In addition, the superintendent recognized the “tireless efforts by our maintenance professionals to thoroughly sanitize our campuses and reconfigure them to maximize student safety.”

“This is a very big day. We are prepared. We are pleased to welcome our students back on campus,” said Pulver.

He credited steadfast leadership from principals and other administrators and lauded the “positive outreach enlisting parents as our partners in safety.”

He also thanked the LAUSD Board of Education for their “unwavering” support.

Hybrid in-person classes were authorized by a state waiver granted to LAUSD for elementary instruction.

Pulver said while hybrid session began for elementary students on Tuesday, in-person hybrid classes for middle school will begin Sept. 22 and on Sept. 29 for high school students, should current infetion rates remain stable. 

“I want to reassure you that we have and will continue to base our decisions on the latest science and data from the state and county public health officials,” said Pulver.

In June, Los Alamitos Unified School District formed a committee made up of more than 70 teachers and administrators from every District school site. The committee met more than 30 times and reviewed nearly 9,000 responses from staff and family surveys.

In addition, the planning team sought out the guidance of state and local health and education agencies to devise a comprehensive School Opening and Safety Plan.

Also, he said, “with the encouragement of principals, many families visited their children’s campus over the Labor Day weekend. He said the visit was allowed to familiarize students with classroom locations, entrance/exit procedures for Reopening Day, and he said changes made to prevent student crowding.

Eventually, 77 percent of student have opted to return to the classroom this year, said Pulver, while 23 percent have opted to participate online through LosAl@Home.

In addition, Pulver outlined the safety measures design to facilitate a safe return for students;

• All school staff were required to complete a COVID-19 safety training.

• Principals have enlisted parents in “shared responsibility” for monitoring children’s health and not allowing sick students to come to school.

• Contact-less thermometers were provided to all school sites. Students have their temperature checked each day before entering a classroom.

• Teachers and students must wear masks while they are on campus except while eating or engaged in physical activity.

• Social distancing markers have been placed on ground outside classroom and restrooms and student meeting areas to prevent crowding.

• Each school has been equipped with full stocks of sanitization supplies, such hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, sanitizing wipes.

• All classrooms are cleaned and sanitized between cohort sessions and at the end of each day.

• Portable Hand Washing Stations were installed on all campuses.

• Face masks were distributed for all students and staff.

• Campus entrance and exit procedures were redesigned with students assigned to specific gates by alphabet to prevent crowding. One-way walking paths also have been marked to reduce concentration of students.

• Dedicated isolation areas have been set up at each school to accommodate any children or staff who become ill during the school day.

• Staggered schedules are used for regular handwashing, restroom use, and “brain break” time outside the classroom. (At this time, students are not allowed to use playground equipment.)

• Additional shaded structures have been set up on campuses to facilitate outdoor instruction when possible.

• Water fountains have been shut down and sealed off. Contact-less bottle filling stations have been installed.

• Parents and non-essential visitors are not allowed on campus.