Los Alamitos Unified planning a return to in-person instruction

Mental and emotional health support to increase

Seniors stand behind signs that awaited them Friday as they were invited to pick up yard signs printed to honor them.

While Los Alamitos Unified School system is already back in person, the superintendent said Tuesday that the 2021-22 school year will begin in the traditional model, in person, five days a week. 

“We’ll be back to full day, five days a week, traditional, in-person instructional model at all of our school sites; elementary, middle and our high school for next year,” District Supt. Dr. Andrew Pulver told the LAUSD board Tuesday.

He said that “we keep hearing” that the Governor’s new guidance is to be issued on June 15 and that current guidelines “are going to go away.”

Pulver said the current restrictions are expected to be replaced with “Beyond the Blueprint” guidance. During regular meetings with the Orange County Healthcare Agency “we have been told the social distance requirement is going to go away.” 

Pulver emphasized that the June 15 update could still change, but that school administrators are being told that the state will issue three types of guidance. 

“They have shared with us that the state will be issuing basically three types of guidance,” said Pulver, including one type of guidance for most businesses, schools and childcare.

Currently, Pulver said, school officials believe both the requirements for face masks and for social distancing are going away.  

He said if that is the case, the district will not have to purchase additional furniture for classrooms. 

“We had earlier planned that we may have to buy new furniture,” Pulver told the board, if the social distancing and close contact requirements are not changed. 

He said all schools will have recess and lunch during the school day and that most will also have a real recess, with students “playing on the playground” and “not just a brain break.”

In addition, Pulver said, “transportation will be an option for all of our families like it has been in years past.” 

Nevertheless, Pulver said LAUSD policy will strictly follow the new requirements set forth in the new guidelines. “We will continue to adhere to the guidance that is outlined by the California Department of Public Health, as I share we expect to be able to hear that soon that will take place beginning June 15.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced his intention to make public a major change in the protocols earlier outlined in the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” on June 15.

Even though final details won’t be known until then, Pulver said, while some thought there would be an option for distance learning in the new rules, “at this point it seems to indicate that there will not be a virtual option.”

He said elementary schools are on a modified year-round calendar, and they start back on August 4, while all other schools start in-person instruction August 16. 

While Pulver said there may be some options for homeschooling in the new regulations, Gov. Newsom has made it clear that the state “fully expects our pupils to be in a traditional school calendar” for the next school year.

Moreover, Pulver told the board that the staff was also looking for “various ways that we can provide additional academic and social-emotional support for our students as we come back full time, five days a week.”

“This is one of the things we’ve heard from our high school parents probably the most for the past several years, is the need for some of our parents to be able to hire tutors to provide additional support,” said Pulver. 

In fact, later in the meeting, Deputy Supt. Ondrea Reed announced an agreement, which was approved by the board, with a private company that will provide one-on-one tutoring to students throughout the system. 

Pulver said mentoring will be available “in just about every subject matter we teach at LAHS, and so there is a myriad of ways we are going to continue to support our students.”

With students returning after an incredibly traumatic year, “we are looking to enhance the mental health and wellness supports for all of our students at all of our school sites next year, and quite honestly even for our staff,” the superintendent said. 

“I just want to reiterate this commitment of really recognizing the whole child and the wellness in addition to the academic, but we also know that one of the best ways to provide intervention support to students is to ensure that they are social and emotionally well,” said Pulver. 

He said the district is ramping up the number of mental health counselors at school sites to almost double the current number and wellness counselors will be added to elementary sites to “support both proactive and reactive” strategies. 

“And so, with the intense support of our board, and lots of feedback from our parents and our staff, we look forward for next year; we really will be all about providing rigorous instruction as well as providing social-emotional supports for our students.”