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Back to school: LAUSD classes resume with focus on achievement, safety

Nearly 500,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District returned to classes Monday, beginning the 2023-24 school year that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said will focus on accelerating the success of every student.

“A new school year is upon us, and with that, there’s a golden opportunity, a renewed opportunity to change the lives of our students, every one of them,” Carvalho said during his recent back-to-school address.

During his exuberant speech, he said the new school year will be “focused on speed and accelerating success.”

Los Angeles Unified will never waver from putting our students’ needs first,” he said. “There’s nothing more important. That is our sacred mission. It is our charge. It is our hope, it is our dream, it is our devotion. We are, in fact, doubling down on our promise to make Los Angeles Unified the premier urban school district of choice in the country.”

Ahead of the start of school, Carvalho spent time last week visiting the homes of students to encourage them to attend classes in an annual effort to reduce absenteeism and recover students who fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carvalho and members of the LAUSD Board of Education spent Monday morning visiting various school campuses to welcome back students and staff.

“The start of a new school year always brings excitement and anticipation,” board President Jackie Goldberg said in a statement. “As we dive into this year, let’s remember that every challenge, lesson and experience add to the wonderful tapestry of our students’ lives. Learning is a gift that continues to give, unveiling new facets about the world and ourselves.”

Carvalho noted the district is beginning the school year fully staffed with educators. The district earlier this year reached new contract agreements with teachers and school staff. The agreements followed a three-day strike staged by staffers — and honored by teachers — that shuttered district schools and halted classes.

While the contracts were ratified, another dispute arose when the district initially proposed shortening the 2023-24 winter break to make up for lost instructional time. The unions contested the move, saying it was never negotiated, and the district relented and will maintain a three-week winter break, beginning Dec. 18 and continuing through Jan. 5. The last day of the school year will be June 11, 2024.

There is also a renewed focus on safety this school year.

“We must do more in order for the students of Los Angeles and their families to feel and stay safe,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement. “I am working with Superintendent Carvalho to ensure that we confront and address the vehicular tragedies, substance abuse and other incidents that we have seen near and in our schools.”

Carvalho underscored the importance of the effort.

“Last year, our students and families faced unsafe pedestrian passages to and from our campuses — some experiencing injuries and others loss of life,” he said. “Walking to school should not become a traumatic experience for our students.”

The district has hired a number of crossing guards, reaching the highest number in at least a decade, according to the LAUSD.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has created additional School Slow Zones at 45 schools using 576 signs to reduce speed limits; it has made street improvements including installing speed humps at 28 schools.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Safety Partnership Bureau recently launched a pilot program for students, parents and school staff, focusing on the harms and risks associated with drugs, specifically fentanyl. The program includes educating staff on the functionality and proper usage of Narcan.

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