Los Alamitos Unified preparing to finally open its doors to students

Classrooms within LAUSD have been modified for social distancing and equipped with protective “desk shields” for added screening. Although two chairs are shown at each desk, one will be removed before students return to allow for socially distanced learning, school officials said. Courtesy photo

With the doors of the Los Alamitos Unified School District now preparing to open for students, the superintendent says guidelines and data will guide the reopening.

Pulver and his team met all day Monday making final preparations, as the Superintendent was reported to have scheduled back to back meetings with key officials throughout the system as they now plan to implement their reopening and safety plan.

Last week, the state approved an elementary school waiver for LAUSD, paving the way to some level of in-person instruction for elementary students.

Over the weekend, Orange County was removed from the state’s watchlist which now removes the only remaining barrier (within 14 days) of in-person instruction at all grade levels.

Nevertheless, school will start on Aug. 31 with distance learning, said Pulver, as administrators work to safely return students to classrooms, likely in waves.

“Every decision I make will be grounded in science,” Pulver reassured this week.

During the summer, a collaborative team crafted a Reopening and Safety Plan that offers students at all levels three options, including traditional class instruction (within guidelines), a hybrid of in-person instruction and distance learning, and LosAl@home, the stepped-up distance learning platform.

Consistently, said Pulver, slightly more than 80 percent of parents chose the traditional option so he knows there is significant interest in getting schools opened safely, with even higher percentages of parents at the elementary level wanting their children safely back in traditional classes.

In total, there are about 11,000 students in the system for the current school year, he said.

Pulver said he is doing “everything possible” to make parents, and students, “feel safe.”

Nevertheless, given the fear and emotion of the pandemic, he understands there is still trepidation but he assured parents that the safety of students will factor into “every decision.”

No amount of pressure to get kids back into the classroom will rush any decision, said Pulver. While many are looking forward to a return to a sense of normalcy in school, it must be done carefully and with scientific precision to protect students and assure the quality of instruction. 

Pulver said his team plans to consistently check all of the scientific metrics and data as the reopen unfolds.

Even when they do begin to move students on campus, said Pulver, it could likely be a “phased approach.” As students repopulate the schools, Pulver said his team will be watching carefully to ensure all protocols are streamlined before inviting more and more students onto campus.

Once students are back on campus, said Pulver, even if OC returns to the watchlist, the students will have a right to continue in-person instruction.

The Los Al Unified Superintendent continues to reserve the right to implement the plan according to science, noting that the situation is incredibly fluid and dynamic, with conditions subject to change.

Laura Hall, a parent with two children in the system (Weaver Elementary and Los Al High School), said “I’m glad Dr. Pulver chose to start with distance learning.”

Regarding options, Hall said “it was a difficult decision.” 

“Online is absolutely safer but neither of my children responded well to emergency distance learning.  There was too much attempting to avoid their work and too much fighting with me over it,” she said.

“I want my children to return to campus when it is safe,” said Hall, adding that “I would prefer to remain in distance learning or hybrid learning until the scientific data collected by the state indicates that the risk is low,” said Hall.

Pulver said while every precaution possible will be taken to slowly and safely return students to class, he was aware of the state allowed “window” of time to implement a return to in-person instruction and that the LAUSD return to campus will occur within it.

Whatever decisions are made, said Pulver, will be made using monitoring data and “real science.”