Long Beach schools will close for the rest of the year; graduation ceremonies are canceled

The Long Beach Unified School District officially announced its campuses will be closed through the end of the school year during a meeting of the Board of Education on Wednesday evening.

“It’s an announcement that all of us hoped we would not have to make,” said Superintendent Chris Steinhauser at the meeting.

In a written statement, Steinhauser said the district’s “top priority continues to be the health and safety of our students, their families and our staff.”

The announcement comes a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said schools statewide would not reopen until the fall in an effort to end the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” Thurmond wrote in a letter to statewide officials. “This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning.”

The LBUSD had previously announced a closure through May 4.

In addition to the closure of the schools, Wednesday’s announcement also stated that graduation ceremonies will not take place in person, devastating news for the thousands of high school seniors set to graduate.

“We understand the great importance of graduation events, and we are considering ways to provide alternative ceremonies,” said Steinhauser.

At the board meeting Wednesday, it was obvious that staff was concerned about seniors.

“This is nothing that any of us wanted you to go through,” said Steinhauser.

Board Member Megan Kerr added:  “I’m so sorry it’s turning out this way and not the way you dreamed of and the way you deserved.”

LBUSD students took to social media to voice their sadness over the loss of graduation, prom, and other senior activities.

Recently crowned CIF-SS champion basketball player and Wilson High senior class president Samiya Terry tweeted, “People need to understand that we were literally slapped with adulthood out of nowhere. These couple of months till graduation were supposed to be a little push to the outside world.”

The district has distributed thousands of Chromebooks for students to access its Home Learning Opportunities portal, allowing them to do schoolwork and interact with their teachers from home.

The current plan of ungraded assignments will continue through the end of next week, then the LBUSD and its teachers will take the planned spring break of April 13-17. There will be a dramatic shift when digital school resumes on April 20.

“Upon the return from Spring recess on April 20, however, students will be accountable for assignments and participation,” according to the statement. “More details will be provided on grading/accountability.”

The Board of Education meeting was held remotely on Wednesday. The district has more than 70,000 students.

The school year runs through June 12. Fall classes are scheduled to begin Sept. 1.

The Long Beach Post will also be hosting a live Q&A with LBUSD superintendent Chris Steinhauser at 1 p.m. Friday on Facebook and Twitter.

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