Pulver ‘surprised’ at LAUSD reopen

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Students sit behind new desk shields at Oak Middle School. Courtesy photo

Five weeks into the new school year, the superintendent of the Los Alamitos Unified School District remains vigilant but has kind words for teachers, administrators, and parents as schools throughout the district are have been reopened.

“I’m surprised that it went as smoothly as it did,” said Dr. Andrew Pulver this week. “It’s really coming together.”

Almost in the same sentence, however, Pulver noted that he “understood the hardships” teachers, staff, students and parents have endured to make it happen.

“I know parents have been inconvenienced and our teachers and staff have had to find creative new ways to reach and teach our students,” said Pulver. “It’s not been easy for them.”

Nevertheless, Pulver said “I am so pleased” about the reopening. “Nothing is flawless,” he said, but the relatively smooth opening without major incident indicates the complex reopening and safety plan, with attention to detail, has largely worked. 

The smooth opening “must mean our safety protocols are effective,” said Pulver.

Elementary schools opened Sept. 7, middle schools on Sept. 22, and high schools on Sept. 29.

High school teachers considered a walkout, but later relented when they said LAUSD started listening to their concerns. Several teachers provided technical, specific safety concerns to the board.   

Days before the high school opened, staff members were busy installing new HVAC systems, filters and adding powerful air purifiers and fans for halls and classrooms.

He said parents, for both in-person instruction and those working at home through the LosAl@home program “have done a great job.” In many cases, both parents and grandparents were needed to facilitate the new supportive tasks required by pandemic protocols.

Detailed protocols and logistical necessities require families to pick up and drop off students within precise windows of time. Once on campus, students have strict social protocols for movement and socializing. Students learning at home have the same type, yet different challenges, he said.

Teachers too, said Pulver, have gone above and beyond to create a smooth opening for students. “We are all working harder, and differently, than we ever have before.”

“This is a big organization and reopening has been intense,” admits Pulver.

Even though it is only a hybrid approach, meaning students are only on campus three days a week, and teachers must provide asynchronous instruction for the days they are remote. “It is very hard work,” he said.

Even in its current, structured form, and even with its many challenges, Pulver said many students and parents are ecstatic.   

“I’ve heard from numerous parents since we’ve opened,” he said, “saying what a difference this has been for their kids.”

Not only does it provide “emotional wellness for their children,” they are thriving and soaking up knowledge and, albeit briefly and socially distanced, seeing their friends again.

A student and a staff member have tested positive for COVID-19, but the superintendent said this was well within expectations.

“We were not naïve to think there would be no cases,” he said.

While he remains vigilant and taking every precaution against the virus, Pulver said he is also concerned about the educational impact of the period students attended “emergency distance learning.” 

Pulver knows that hybrid school is not ideal, but students are learning again and this is the only way educators can deal with instructional time lost to the pandemic.

“Given the alternative,” said Pulver, “I’m very pleased.”