CULVER CITY, Calif. — A limited number of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District are officially returning to campus.
Kindergarten and first graders at 72 schools within the district are part of this week's phased reopening of the school system. The rest of the elementary schools will reopen April 19.
What You Need To Know
- Kindergarten and first graders at 72 schools within the district are part of this week's phased reopening of the LA Unified school system
- The organization Great Public Schools Now has compiled a report with nine recommendations for LAUSD to avoid irreparable harm on this generation of students
- The report that shows more than 40% of students in the class of 2022 are in danger of not graduating on time
But when it’s time for high school students to return the week after that, not every student is ready.
Priscilla Garcia is apprehensive. The 17-year-old Hamilton High School senior said she likes to sit out on the front lawn of her apartment when she needs to think. A lot has changed since the beginning of the pandemic a year ago. Garcia reflected on how challenging it’s been.
"At first I did not have a laptop," she said. "I did not have WiFi. I didn’t have access to any of those things. I didn’t even know how to use a laptop, so I had to learn."
Garcia's single mom works all day, seven days a week, so Garcia is often left to care for her 6-year-old sister. Garcia explained how her grades were really slipping at the beginning of the pandemic, and she has been fighting depression ever since.
"I don’t have many friends to communicate how I’m feeling, so it’s hard," she said. "It’s hard not to have that support from someone else."
And as long as the pandemic continues, Garcia added that she doesn’t feel safe enough to return to in-person learning. When LA Unified high schools start to return the week of April 26, she will likely stick with distance learning.
"The plan that the school has is just not, I just don’t like their plan for now," she said. "So I’m just gonna stay online and keep doing classes online."
The local organization Great Public Schools Now is taking a stand for low-income students like Garcia. Its executive director Ana Ponce explained that their mission has been advocating for all LA-area kids to have access to a quality education long before the pandemic. They have now compiled a report with nine recommendations for the district to avoid irreparable harm on this generation of students.
“Big areas include the social emotional support strategy, the academic plan of, how we are gonna recover? How are we gonna support kids and families holistically, and how are we gonna continue to engage families moving forward?” Ponce said.
The report's compiled data shows that more than 40% of students in the class of 2022 are in danger of not graduating on time, Ponce added. Their statistics also show that over 20,000 students are still missing three or more days of class on a weekly basis.
"The kids that left school in March of 2020 are coming back with months of trauma and unprecedented experiences that we have to recognize, and we have to welcome them and embrace them and love them," said Ponce. "But we also have to hold ourselves accountable for how we are going to recover for the last 14 months."
Recovery is on the forefront of Garcia's mind as well. She said she's ready to leave her high school chapter and start a new journey at Santa Monica College with a word of encouragement for anyone who’s struggled like she has.
"I say, just believe in yourself, and you can do it."
For the full Great Public Schools Now report with data and recommendations, click here.