Los Angeles Unified School District has more than 12 times as many students as Seattle Public Schools. They announced on Friday, March 13 that all 900 campuses will be closed as of Monday, with an immediate shift to online learning. If LAUSD can do it why can’t Seattle Public Schools?
Instead of online learning in Seattle, Superintendent Juneau has proposed paper learning packets that are not mandatory. She said online learning isn’t equitable because some students would not be able to access it. There appears to be no plan for 53,000 students in Seattle to continue classes during an indefinite closure. Meanwhile, here’s how they’re doing it in LA, according to a March 13 LA Times story.
LA Superintendent Austin Beutner was authorized last week by the Board of Education to spend $10 million on computers and has requested $50 million more from the state of CA.
They started giving computers to students who need them on Friday. To ensure that all students have internet access they’ve partnered with Charter Communications. Charter will offer 60 days of free internet access to households of K-12 or college students who don’t already have it. They will also open Wi-fi hotspots for public use. And this will be happening by Monday, tomorrow.
Meanwhile teachers and students in Seattle have no idea how or even if classes will continue.
I teach at Ingraham High School. Some teachers are exploring ways to use Microsoft Teams to bring online classes to our students. The Teams platform is available, but there has been no formal training and teachers cannot set it up because features are blocked. Nor can we enroll students in classes because the platform isn’t integrated with PowerSchools, our system that tracks enrollment and grades. This means we can’t teach and students can’t learn.
Public education is a constitutional mandate. It’s not an option. The only way to meet that mandate right now is online. We cannot use equity as an excuse to forego education.
Governor Jay Inslee and State Superintendent of Schools Chris Reykdal need to mandate that all districts make online learning equitable, and funding needs to be available. Students who don’t have computers or internet access must be provided with them. Teachers and students need to be trained. Systems need to be integrated to support online learning.
LAUSD is pulling this off with less planning time than we’ve had. They’re taking on the equity and funding issues, while working through training and logistics on the fly. It may take weeks. It may be a mess. But at least they’re doing it, and every teacher and student knows that classes will continue. In Seattle the only thing we know is there’s no plan for online learning for equity reasons.
Most teachers and staff have been trained in equity. It means acknowledging opportunity gaps and filling them. Students who are disadvantaged should be given the support and resources to ensure they have the same opportunities as their peers. Equity does not mean denying 53,000 students an education because we can’t or won’t figure out how to make it equitable. That is not equity. It’s inexcusable.
Sharon Peaslee is a former Seattle School Board Director and currently teaches at Ingraham High School where she is Chair of the Business Department.