This story has been updated. Click here for the latest.
Long Beach Unified plans to educate its 70,000-plus students during a five-week shutdown by giving all of them access to a Chromebook laptop, as well as in-home internet access, officials said Wednesday.
Families who need a hotspot internet device will be able to request one. Deputy Superintendent Jill Baker said the devices have not yet arrived, but have been ordered.
Teachers in the district, meanwhile, will have an online staff meeting Monday with their principals to outline what the next few weeks of “home-learning” looks like.
“In the next few days there will be a series of communications about this,” Baker said at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday. “This is a whole infrastructure that came into place in the last two days. We are trying to figure out how can families and staff access things in the simplest way possible.”
The home learning will be for both general and special education students, and will consist of “relevant and standards-based ungraded assignments,” said Baker.
After three weeks of home learning opportunities, the district will take the planned week off for spring break. If in-person classes are able to resume on April 20, they will.
Baker and Superintendent Chris Steinhauser stressed that regular updates will be available at lbschools.net, and urged parents to seek more information there.
Other major details about the rest of this school year have yet to be figured out, mostly because of the uncertainty about how long the closure in Long Beach and around the state will actually last. Steinhauser, however, tamped down assumptions that a longer shutdown than the planned five weeks was inevitable.
The district, he said, had received numerous calls after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statement that he thought it was likely that the state’s schools wouldn’t resume this school year.
“No decision to close schools for the rest of the year has been made,” said Steinhauser. “We will make a promise that we will keep in constant communication.”
Parents have had questions regarding commencement ceremonies and other details that won’t be answerable until that picture is clearer, officials said.
Steinhauser also hit back at a rumor that had circulated on social media that Long Beach’s teachers would only be paid during this first week of the shutdown. The LBUSD, Long Beach’s largest employer, will continue to pay its 10,000-plus employees.
“Our employees who are full time or full time equivalent, they’re all being paid,” said Steinhauser. “Our hourly employees, like substitutes, they are not; as those laws change at the state and national level we will address that.”
The Board of Education meeting Wednesday was sparsely attended, with only three of five members present. Board President Jon Meyer and Felton Williams are avoiding public gatherings because they are over 65, per Newsom’s directive on Sunday.
The meeting was filled with high spirits, as district employees carry on long hours trying to change the method of educating its students.
“This reminds me of how Long Beach rallied after the earthquake,” Steinhauser said. “In all tough times, there are silver linings—we have to remind ourselves of that.”
One thing the district does have certainty about is their plan to continue distributing free breakfasts and lunches to Long Beach’s children, a program that’s been enormously popular and well-utilized this week. On Monday, 5,100 meals were picked up from LBUSD campuses and on Tuesday that number had jumped to 6,900. The preliminary numbers for Wednesday were over 8,000 meals.
“We have plenty of food, we have food to feed people,” said Baker.
This week, every campus in the system (except CAMS at CSU Dominguez Hills) is offering food 8-9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Baker said the district will continue to feed all children aged 1-18 as long as the closure lasts, although they may reduce the number of campuses.
Kerr praised Nutrition Services Director Mark Chavez for his department’s speed in switching up their purpose over last weekend’s two-day break.
“Wow, have you done amazing things,” she said. “That was a tremendous pivot over a few days. I couldn’t be more proud.”