Equity and ReOpening Schools Safely
By Dianne Anderson
If Black students can benefit from their fair share of the latest COVID Relief funding, then some relief may be in store from the academically, social-emotionally barren year.
Summer school programs are set to open in real time, and Long Beach educators hope to see students back in their traditional classrooms as the latest American Rescue Plan funding helps districts prepare for fall reopening.
LBUSD board member Erik Miller said the district is currently working on learning acceleration classes specifically to assist with some of the deficits created by the pandemic. Many academic and social services are available to help students acclimate back to in-person learning.
But, he said more importantly is the recovery from lost learning.
“We’re constantly assessing the academic performance and the social and emotional health of our students. Though we are still not fully aware of the impact of COVID, we know that it has been detrimental and we’re prepared to address that,” he said.
Depending on the age group, kids will return to several programs and services open through the summer with in-person and virtual options. In the classroom, he said that safety protocols will continue indefinitely. Students must stand three feet apart, and wear their masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its K-12school guidance last week, stating that students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet in classroom settings.
Miller said he is also working with several affinity groups within the district to address the needs of students in some of the hardest hit areas.
“Predominantly the groups are heavily influenced and impacted, African American students are a focus of my tenure on the board, as we know that they are the lowest performing demographic in our district,” he said.
California school districts are in the money for $15.3 billion in federal aid under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed in March by President Biden. Including the first round of COVID CARES Act funding, Long Beach Unified School District will receive $410 million in total stimulus relief.
The Board is currently in budget conversations, and he said that his priority is to ensure resources are distributed equitably.
“The district is aware of the academic and emotional impact of COVID. With the additional resources, we’ve been allotted, we plan to address those from an equitable and efficient manner,” he said.
But he stressed that money is not the permanent solution.
“It’s a temporary answer. We have to be both strategic and efficient with those funds, it does sound like a large number, all it means is there is a lot more work, there’s a bigger impact we can make.”
Long before COVID, parents that participated in a racial equity framework and community survey had expressed concerns that less than half of Black students were meeting the A-G requirements to enter college, and about one-third were meeting benchmarks in Math and English.
Equity barriers are a problem. Long Beach Unified School District, and Black students in particular, are named in a recent updated UCLA study as one of 14 districts countywide with unequal access to education.
Before the pandemic, a 2019 UCLA study by the Center for the Transformation of Schools, Beyond the Schoolhouse: Digging Deeper, showed that Black students were seriously lagging behind.
Researchers of the recently updated study said they believe any new dated collected post-pandemic will show that conditions in communities and schools have worsened through COVID.
Because Los Angeles Unified and Long Beach Unified hold the highest population of Black students in the county, and also the largest homeless enrollment, the report highlighted that basic needs must be addressed as the top priority.
“These figures paint a stark reality of not only the sheer numbers of students experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, but also point to a need for supporting housing insecure Black youth,” the report said.
Among other concerns, researchers called attention to what it will take to reopen schools, and essential learning recovery plans, particularly to address the needs of Black families that have taken the brunt of COVID-19.
“We cannot ignore how the physical, social, emotional and psychological state of communities of color, Black families in particular, have been profoundly impacted by structural racism, apparent in economic, housing, health and social patterns, especially in our education systems,” the report said.
For more information on Safe Reopening Resources, see