Thousands of Los Angeles high school students are not accessing online learning during school closures

March 30, 2020

Los Angeles Unified's board meeting room.

About 15,000 high school students in Los Angeles Unified did not participate in any online learning during the first two weeks of school closures, district Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday.

In addition, for the remaining 105,000 high school students who have participated in online classes, about 26,000 of them are not doing so on a daily basis.

Beutner said many of those students are among the district’s “most vulnerable,” including students in foster care, students with disabilities and students living in poverty.

“It’s simply not acceptable that we lose touch with 15,000 young adults or that many students aren’t getting the education they should be,” Beutner said during a televised address Monday morning.

Reaching students who lack internet access at home is a dilemma that many districts across California are trying to solve amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In L.A. Unified, where schools have been closed since March 16, about 25 percent of the district’s more than 600,000 students don’t have access to the internet at home. 

The district announced last week it was investing $100 million to provide Chromebooks and tablets as well as free internet access to all students in the district who don’t already have it. The district said it was partnering with Verizon to provide the internet connections.

Despite those efforts, the district has not yet been able to close the digital gap. 

Through the partnership with Verizon, the district in recent days has connected almost 2,000 high school students to the internet, Beutner said Monday. Getting internet access to the remaining students “will take the continued patience and commitment of all involved — students, families and teachers,” he added.

“But the payoff will be worth it as our students will be better prepared for the future that awaits them,” he said. “And all of this investment will only enhance the learning when we return to school. There is no substitute for learning in a school setting, but this investment in the digital future of our students will help make sure there’s opportunity to match the talent we know is in every classroom whether at school or at home.”

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