LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The first day at Heliotrope Elementary School for kindergartener Adam Alvarado was especially festive, with balloons, gift bags and an appearance from the LA Rams mascot – so he was understandably a little shy when he approached the gate.
But his mom, Argelia Castro, says he’s eager to get back into the classroom – even though he’s not showing it.
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“I feel good, ready to come back,” she said. “And he’s excited too. Even though it’s just for three hours.”
After more than a year, the Los Angeles Unified School District welcomed kindergarteners and first graders back to 61 elementary schools Tuesday.
LAUSD, which shut down its schools in March of 2020 to slow the spread of coronavirus, unapologetically reopened later than most of its neighboring districts. But they weren’t the only ones – only about 40% of the district’s parents have decided their children can return for in-person learning.
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“We’re in a community that’s been amongst the hardest hit by covid,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said. “Families still have very real fears, very real concerns.”
The district is working hard to reassure parents. Students get their temperatures checked before coming onto campus every day, and are tested weekly by lab techs brought onto campus. Classrooms are socially distanced, and campus staff is emphasizing hand hygiene. Parents can also change their mind every two weeks on whether their children will learn remotely or in-person.
“Any concerns, just come take a look. Maybe they wanna come, see how it works, and bring their child back next week,” Beutner said.
And even though students are returning to classrooms, it’s on a hybrid schedule – teachers are conducting classes in-person for a morning cohort, then teach remotely for their afternoon cohorts. Students whose families have chosen to keep them on campus all day will spend their afternoons doing independent learning, tutoring and extracurricular activities.
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Several school board members acknowledged the district is one of the last to return to in-person learning, but they said they did so to make sure they get reopening right so they can stay open without any setbacks.