Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Polaris
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, right, listens as board member Dr. George McKenna, left, talks to media while LAUSD volunteers distribute meals in March.

With nearly all Los Angeles Unified students now connected to online learning, superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday outlined an expanded array of summer courses the district will offer to help make up for lost learning during coronavirus closures. 

Along with standard math and reading classes, Beutner said the district is offering newly designed courses on sports science, animated film and other topics over the summer in a greatly enlarged program. The session begins June 24, will be entirely online and will be open to all students for the first time in the district’s history

“If the transition to online learning is our moonshot, the rocket’s been built and lift off has occurred,” Beutner added. “We’re in the early days of an extraordinary voyage.” 

Beutner also made his latest plea to state lawmakers to prioritize funding schools in their upcoming budget deliberations. 

LA Unified’s expanded summer session is a major departure from the standard summer school program that in the past has been only for special education students, high school students who need extra credits to graduate and students who were not meeting grade level standards. 

With 600,000 students, LA Unified is by far the largest school district in California. Schools in the district have been closed for in-person classes since March 16 because of the spread of the coronavirus. Through partnerships with Amazon and Verizon, the district has since distributed devices and WiFi hotspots to hundreds of thousands of students who weren’t able to access the internet at home before the pandemic.

As it has for many districts around the states, connecting students online, especially elementary students, has been a major challenge. Now, 96% of elementary school students and 98% of middle schoolers and high schoolers are equipped to participate in some form of online learning, Beutner said. During the first week of school closures, just 18% of elementary school students, 74% of middle school students and 84% of high schoolers had participated at least once in online learning. 

“Students of all levels are now able to participate in learning and remarkable things are beginning to happen,” Beutner said Monday.

However, not every student who has been connected has equal access to the internet. Some students, for example, share devices with siblings and other family members.

Students who are struggling the most with distance learning will be offered “intensive instruction” during the summer session, Beutner has said. He didn’t provide any further details on Monday about the program or how many students may participate. District spokeswoman Barbara Jones said LA Unified currently has no additional information about the intensive instruction.

Meanwhile, all students in the district will be offered grade level math and reading classes. 

They will also have the option of taking new, “entertaining” classes being offered through the district’s newly formed partnerships with film studios, actors and sports teams, among others, Beutner said. The classes will tie in math and reading components and will “take advantage of the tools, technology and online connection every student now has,” Beutner said.

In a class being held in partnership with Illumination Entertainment, the creators of Despicable Me and The Minions, students will learn to draw, animate and create their own animated films. 

High schoolers will be able to take a “Voyage of the Titanic” with James Cameron, the director of “Titanic,” and learn about the “biology and physics of the deep ocean,” Beutner said. 

Students will also be able to learn about astronomy and space technology in a course being offered in partnership with the Columbia Memorial Space Center, a science museum in LA County.

The NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers, meanwhile, will help lead a class on sports science, nutrition and medicine that will also include “practical advice on a healthy lifestyle,” Beutner said.

And for up to 1,500 middle school students interested in learning to play the guitar or ukulele, they’ll have that opportunity in a class being taught in partnership with the Fender Guitar Company, a guitar manufacturer.

In each of those courses, the materials needed for participation such as guitars will be provided to students at no cost, Beutner said. 

Beutner has said that providing the summer session will cost the district $103 million — $50 million more than they expected to spend on summer school instruction before the pandemic. 

He has repeatedly asked state lawmakers for more funding but it’s not clear what the state will be able to offer. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration projected there will be a shortfall of $18 billion in revenue over two years for K-12 schools and community colleges.

Beutner pointed out Monday that the state provides more than 90% of LA Unified’s funding. 

He urged state lawmakers to prioritize funding schools in upcoming budget deliberations, saying that “a good education is the path out of poverty for many of the students we serve and the promise of a better future for all of them.”

“As a state and as a nation, it’s time we find a way to do extraordinary things to make sure we deliver on the promise of a great education for every child in public schools,” he said. 

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  1. Victor Bergonzoli 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Online learning solutions are crucial in these difficult times. We, at SportsEdTV, offer free online sports instruction to help athletes of all level learn anywhere, anytime.

  2. Susan 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    It is not offered to all students, because when we called, they said only for students who were registered for the 19/20 school year.

  3. SHIRLEY SULLIVAN 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I have a child in elementary school, middle school, and high school. If kids are required to literally return to the classroom, staggered etc. All parents will be at risk and their children without a vaccine available to everyone. I would like to have more information on home schooling, and K-12 online learning as advertised on television. It will be overwhelming for parents as distance learning is now, but we must continue to do the very … Read More

    I have a child in elementary school, middle school, and high school. If kids are required to literally return to the classroom, staggered etc.

    All parents will be at risk and their children without a vaccine available to everyone.

    I would like to have more information on home schooling, and K-12 online learning as advertised on television. It will be overwhelming for parents as distance learning is now, but we must continue to do the very best we can as parents to educate our children, while protecting parents and children.

  4. Houria K Masinter 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I think LAUSD, especially in a time like this, is doing a great job, taking care not only of their students but their families as well and anyone else who needs help. For such big district, I really don’t know how they do it. Big thanks to anyone putting the time and effort to be there for these students and their families. Way to go LAUSD!!!!!.

  5. Victoria Moore 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    As an alumni of LAUSD, a current Special Education Instructional Assistant with the district, and a grad student at Academy of Art University, the announcement of mandatory Summer School is a Godsend. Even though I’m about to graduate this fall, and had an intense three online class semester, I plan to take a class or two online. Lifelong and distance learning is the future and the future is now.

  6. Stephanie Boyd 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I could not agree more, Mr. Camarena. Superintendent Beutner is to be commended for taking the bold steps necessary to make the most of a situation that most would not touch.

  7. Manuel 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    First, Superintendent Beutner's characterization of the summer classes as "entertaining" seems to have been a Freudian slip as the slide in his presentation labeled the classes as "exciting." Second, if the summer classes are meant to make up for the lack of learning during the regular session, how could anyone believe that "more of the same" will solve the problem? Third, if the classes are to be "serious," then teachers should be teaching these classes. There is … Read More

    First, Superintendent Beutner’s characterization of the summer classes as “entertaining” seems to have been a Freudian slip as the slide in his presentation labeled the classes as “exciting.”

    Second, if the summer classes are meant to make up for the lack of learning during the regular session, how could anyone believe that “more of the same” will solve the problem?

    Third, if the classes are to be “serious,” then teachers should be teaching these classes. There is no evidence that any teacher recruitment to man these classes has taken place. Of course, if these classes are designed with “entertainment” in mind, then we those classes will essentially be canned and produced by some outfit with unknown production values. As there is nothing out there that has been piloted and shown to work (otherwise they would be using it now), I am afraid that this is all just smoke and mirrors.

  8. Anonymous 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Summer school is perfect! Parents please encourage your children to continue learning. Great job LAUSD

  9. LA Parent 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    This is Stupid!! Kids will not want to be online because the classes haven’t been reliable, and mentally exhausting. Now that it’s summer, kids want nothing to do with school!! Beutner should be considerate of the mental health this pandemic has caused.

    Replies

    • Robert Louis Camarena 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Beutner, Gov. Newsom and Mayor Garcetti should be applauded for what they are trying to get accomplished. As for those parents who think that "this is stupid" or "a waste of time", by you having that attitude and quitting before this can even start isn't a good example for your kids! Loving them means getting involved with them (academically) and showing an interest in new ideas. Stop what your doing in your life and raise … Read More

      Beutner, Gov. Newsom and Mayor Garcetti should be applauded for what they are trying to get accomplished. As for those parents who think that “this is stupid” or “a waste of time”, by you having that attitude and quitting before this can even start isn’t a good example for your kids! Loving them means getting involved with them (academically) and showing an interest in new ideas. Stop what your doing in your life and raise them to be good human beings…

      • Tanya K 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

        We have seen already what a poor job LAUSD has done during the last 2 months. Bunch of free videos and useless instructions. All you can download yourself online for free. And only 2 hours per week Zoom time with the teacher. 2 hours per week!!! Who needs astronomy class? Teach our kids basics, spend at least 2-3 hours per day explaining material. This is what we call distance learning. Only those who don’t … Read More

        We have seen already what a poor job LAUSD has done during the last 2 months. Bunch of free videos and useless instructions. All you can download yourself online for free. And only 2 hours per week Zoom time with the teacher. 2 hours per week!!! Who needs astronomy class?

        Teach our kids basics, spend at least 2-3 hours per day explaining material. This is what we call distance learning. Only those who don’t have kids in LA elementary schools could write positive comments like that. Enough of this BS.

        • Josh 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

          Hi, It's a mixed bag, but lots of classes are being run well online. Keep in mind that many teachers, including some of the best ones, are not well versed in teaching online and/or using new technology tools to teach virtually. So, they're doing their best, and building skills for the summer/fall, while teaching this semester. In my classes, students get a daily lecture or Zoom, plus hands-on or virtual activities. Not the same as being … Read More

          Hi,
          It’s a mixed bag, but lots of classes are being run well online. Keep in mind that many teachers, including some of the best ones, are not well versed in teaching online and/or using new technology tools to teach virtually. So, they’re doing their best, and building skills for the summer/fall, while teaching this semester. In my classes, students get a daily lecture or Zoom, plus hands-on or virtual activities. Not the same as being in the classroom together, but it’s the best of a tough situation.

          As far as astronomy goes, I’m recommending that class to my physics students – could be really cool. I loved my astro class – it was a highlight of my educational time.