Long Beach Unified School District to receive $23.5 million from State for reopening elementary schools on March 29

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LBUSD is also eligible for an expanded-learning opportunities grant of up to $55 million, under new State law.

The Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is pushing ahead with its March 29 reopening plan for elementary schools. 

Because that date is before California’s new school-reopening deadline of April 1, LBUSD will receive a $23.5 million in-person instruction grant from the State, according to LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jill Baker. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom reached an agreement with state legislators on Monday, March 1 to amend state law AB-86 on school reopening and relief by providing an additional $6.6 billion to accelerate reopening schools and expand support for students.

The measure includes $2 billion to fund safety equipment and $4.6 billion to expand learning opportunities, such as summer school, tutoring and mental health services, according to the governor’s office. If schools don’t open by April 1, school districts lose 1% of those funds for each day they remain closed.  

Funding is equity-based according to a State formula, with an additional $1,000 for each homeless student, the governor’s office says. LBUSD will be eligible to receive an extended-learning grant of up to $55 million, Baker told the LBUSD Board of Education at its March 3 meeting. 

Most of those funds – 85% or up to $46.75 million – must be used to enhance in-person student learning, such as through counseling or enrichment programs conducted through August 2022, Baker said.

The Board will be able to review a plan for using the grant by June 1, Baker said. 

LBUSD District 3 representative Dr. Juan Benitez said LBUSD should not only invest in in-person students but online learners as well in terms of social-emotional support, tutoring and enrichment opportunities. 

The underserved families in District 3, in the southwest area of Long Beach, have opted to keep more than half of their elementary students learning at home, which may further heighten feelings of isolation, he said.

“We will have a critical mass of our students with the highest needs, many of them for whom virtual instruction hasn’t worked the way we want it to work,” Benitez said. 

About half of all LBUSD elementary-school children will continue learning virtually, per the district survey completed by their families. 

Brian Moskovitz, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said principals will send all elementary-school families detailed information on Thursday, March 4 that includes class schedules, arrival and dismissal procedures and school-cleaning protocols. Parents will also have a chance to participate in virtual meetings with school staff the week before schools open, Moskovitz said.

All elementary-school students will be divided into two groups, each with 2.5 hours of synchronous learning with teachers each day, followed by 2.5 hours of asynchronous at-home work, Moskovitz said. 

All class sizes will be smaller as a result, which Moskovitz said will facilitate student learning. Teachers will begin offering virtual lessons from their classrooms beginning March 22.

Dr. Christopher Lund, assistant superintendent for middle schools, said his schools are still planning to reopen on April 20, as reviewed at the February 17 Board meeting.

See related story: Long Beach Unified School District elementary schools to now open March 29

Middle-school parents are now completing a survey, due March 12, choosing whether their students continue learning virtually or in a hybrid model with all Mondays virtual, then alternating between two days in person and two days of asynchronous work at home. 

Like elementary-school students, middle-schoolers will also be divided into two groups with alternating schedules, leading to smaller class sizes of about 16 students with increased attention to each, Lund said. 

Board members said they toured elementary schools districtwide to see for themselves the protocols in place and new features like classroom sinks and air-filtration systems to enhance safety, and microphones for teachers to help speak through masks. 

LBUSD District 4 representative Megan Kerr said she visited Grant Elementary School in North Long Beach, though it’s not in her area, and was impressed by staff preparations.

“They are excited and delighted to bring students back,” she said. “There is an energy about the work, of wanting to care deeply for their students, and […] continue to meet the needs of students who will be learning from home still.” 

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