The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for our nation, our state and our county's 80 K-12 school districts. Educators are eager to bring students back to school. We know that young people learn best in the classroom. However, the health and safety of students and school staff must come first. I applaud Governor Newsom for making this everyone's top priority while recognizing that learning is also non-negotiable.

While distance instruction is not ideal, I want parents and community members to know that school administrators and teachers are committed to ensuring that learning continues. We will be held to high standards for providing rigorous, meaningful instruction and for meeting students' needs, including nutrition and wellness. We have the support of the California Department of Education, state and county government agencies and other stakeholders who want to make a difference for our students and families.

It will not be easy. We are deeply concerned about the large numbers of students who have not fared well with online instruction or have completely checked out. Most affected are our low-income and Black and Latino students, foster youth, and other vulnerable groups. Far too many of our young people were already dealing with the negative effects of trauma, which have only been made worse by school closures and social distancing.

Promoting educational equity and our students’ mental health and emotional well-being must be the foundation of our work. We at the LA County Office of Education, through our philanthropic arm, are hard at work to raise funds and resources so that students and families are able to succeed in a remote learning environment.

If there is a silver lining, it is that LA County is 80 districts strong and we will work together to meet the needs of the region's two million preschool and school-age children.

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