Virus spikes force big districts to go back to school online-only

Los Angeles and San Diego USDs cite unclear guidance from health officials and insufficient COVID testing
By: | July 14, 2020
Online learning will continue for students in several large school districts due to spiking coronavirus outbreaks in their regions. (GettyImages/Imgorthand)Online learning will continue for students in several large school districts due to spiking coronavirus outbreaks in their regions. (GettyImages/Imgorthand)

Several of the nation’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles USD, Atlanta Public Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools, will start the school year with full online learning due to spiking coronavirus cases.

Los Angeles USD will reopen Aug. 18 and San Diego USD on Aug. 31, while administrators work to return to in-person learning sometime during the 2020-21 school year, the districts announced in a joint statement.

New research on the spread of coronavirus and the experiences of other countries were not enough to convince leaders that bringing students and staff back to classrooms would be safe.

“Unfortunately, much of the research is incomplete and many of the guidelines are vague and contradictory,” the systems said in the news release. “One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither.”

More from DA: Specialized ‘virtual learning team’ will create district’s online lessons

Systems leaders recognized that students, staff and administrators would be disappointed by the decision, but said school districts need more resources from the federal government to resume normal operations safely.

Teachers will participate in expanded professional development in online instruction while students will also receive more training in remote learning.  Parents also will get more support in helping students with distance learning.

Administrators blamed some of the confusion on the American Academy of Pediatrics, which reversed course last week and said it was no longer confident that reopening schools would be safe.

“It is clear our two systems will need to create our own source for reliable scientific information,” the districts said.

Back-to-school with online learning

Across the country, officials at Metro Nashville Public Schools also announced classes would resume with fully online learning.

“This will allow social distancing, mask mandates, and other measures to take effect and reduce the spread of COVID-19 before tens of thousands of students and staff return to our schools, which could spread the disease among our people and in the community if we aren’t careful,” the district said in a statement.

More from DA: Principals worry about keeping students and staff healthy

Nashville officials said they had made significant improvements to their online program based on lessons learned from remote instruction this spring.

In Atlanta, new Superintendent Lisa Herring plans to move the first day of school back to weeks to Aug. 24, when all students will begin the year learning remotely. Online instruction will continue for at least nine weeks, or until the city reaches at least moderate spread of COVID.

District staff will return to work on Aug. 3 for two weeks of virtual pre-planning focused on instruction, safety and making family connections.

DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.

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