All but 76 L.A. Schools to Open Despite Jitters
All but 76 campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District will reopen today as the nation’s second-largest school district labors to restore normalcy for more than half a million quake-jittery youths after an unprecedented weeklong emergency break.
Nearly all of the closed campuses are in the hard-hit West San Fernando Valley, and school officials are scrambling to open even some of those schools before the end of the week. About 65,000 students who attend the closed schools will have to stay home until alternative plans are made, including possible relocation to another campus.
The district will make announcements daily on additional school openings. Supt. Sid Thompson said Monday that he and the Board of Education decided to reopen West Valley schools on a day-to-day basis rather than keep them all closed for the remainder of the week because “we’ve made it a priority that these kids need to be in school.”
“I want our students who have missed school for a week to please know that their education is our No. 1 concern,” said Thompson, adding that schools will adjust exam schedules and will likely make up lost time by lengthening the school day or year.
He said about 50 of the 76 schools are closed because of lack of utilities but anticipates that services will be restored quickly so that those campuses can reopen by Friday. About eight schools have suffered severe damage and are closed indefinitely. Officials hope to open safe sections of other schools as soon as possible.
All school operations are subject to last-minute changes if significant aftershocks cause additional damage or cuts in utilities, officials said. Parents are asked to call their schools for more information.
Updated lists of school closures will be shown on the school district’s television station, KLCS Channel 58, on a continuous basis.
Children who are bused to school should meet their buses at the same time and location.
Administrators and classified employees at the closed schools are to report to work today to assist with parent questions and continued cleanup. Teachers, many without a classroom to work in, can stay home.
Throughout the sprawling district Monday, faculty and staff met for the first time since the magnitude 6.6 quake badly pounded half of the district’s 640 schools, causing damages estimated to run as high as $700 million.
From the Eastside to Northridge, school employees reviewed and revised their emergency evacuation plans to be prepared in case significant aftershocks hit during the school day.
They organized staff search-and-rescue teams, first-aid stations and parent pickup sites. Teachers will make sure there is plenty of space inside their classrooms for every child to “drop and hold” beneath their desks--a drill they say is often the brunt of student jokes.
“I think there will be a whole new attitude and awareness over the drops now,” said University High School teacher Patty Peisner.
At senior high schools, teachers voted to postpone finals scheduled to start today, a temporary relief to thousands of students who have been too nervous to study. Teachers cleaned their classrooms, custodians finished sweeping rooms and administrators dealt with bus routes, cafeteria openings and final campus inspections.
At all campuses, teachers--many nervous themselves--will take time to allow students to share their feelings about the quake. Crisis counseling teams have been assembled at most schools.
Sitting at her desk in Room 3 at Balboa Boulevard Gifted/High Ability Magnet in Northridge, teacher Emily Taitz flipped through a book titled “Earthquakes” and prepared a lesson for her second-graders.
“We’re going to talk about it, we’re going to write about it, we’re going to draw pictures--we’ll probably write books called ‘The Day the Earth Shook,’ ” Taitz said. “We need to get back to a routine because that’s what gives kids security.”
Kathie Aihara, who also teaches second grade at Balboa, echoed concerns of teachers throughout the city about coping with aftershocks. “A lot of it will depend on the way their parents are dealing with it,” Aihara said. “If their parents have been very panicky and upset about every aftershock, then I’m sure the kids will be too.”
Many students, especially in the Valley, will return to safe but bare-bones conditions in classrooms where a semester’s worth of supplies and projects may have been damaged or lost.
All extracurricular activities, including clubs, sports and field trips, have been canceled or postponed this week. Districtwide meetings have also been called off.
District officials are expecting attendance to be low in the Valley, while other parts of the sprawling system, such as the Harbor area, are gearing up for full classrooms.
Drops and fluctuations in enrollment can also be expected because of the thousands of homeless and displaced families. “We’ve told principals not to hesitate, just enroll children as they come in,” said Assistant Supt. Sally Coughlin, who oversees Valley elementary schools. “We’re going to have enormous changes in student population.”
The district also is considering bus service to shuttle homeless students from parks and shelters to their local schools, but plans have not been finalized, Coughlin said. The nine Red Cross shelters on district campuses will remain in operation even with students on campus.
In preparation for reopening schools today, district officials and Red Cross workers urged families informally camping on school fields and playgrounds to move to official tent cities and shelters.
Although district officials had feared that many Valley teachers would not report to work because of personal troubles related to the quake, Coughlin does not expect high absenteeism. On Monday, she had to only call in 39 substitutes, lower than the 50-plus usually needed.
Even those teachers whose schools are indefinitely closed found comfort in being back in class temporarily.
“This has been kind of therapeutic, getting things back together and doing this physical work,” said Kay Krattli, after picking up volumes of books in the Frost Middle School library. “We’re all having trouble focusing on anything for a period of time.”
Many students also are eager to restore routine in their lives.
“I just want everything to move on now. I want to get on with things,” said Sue-Jean Chang, 17, of Northridge, who attends Bravo Medical Magnet School on the Eastside and is not fazed by the long commute to school with a friend. “I’m just getting kind of worried about my classes. Everything has been thrown off schedule.”
Chang, like thousands of other seniors, is enrolled in advanced placement courses with national tests this spring. She said she is hoping that her teachers will offer extra tutoring to help her make up for missed study time.
At least two of the district’s charter schools, which are semi-autonomous operations, resumed class Monday, offering a preview of the struggles that lie ahead today.
At Fenton, which sustained significant cosmetic but no structural damage in the quake, only about 100 of nearly 775 students showed up for the first full day of class. Principal Joseph Lucente attributed the low turnout to miscommunication.
At Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima, slightly more than half the 700 students arrived for the first of two consecutive half-days. Some of the 47 newly homeless students dressed for school in the parking lots, cars or parks where they are living.
“I’m happy and sad,” said 10-year-old Arnulfo Villalobos, who is sleeping in a parking lot with his parents, brothers, nieces and nephews. “If the Big One comes and my family dies, I want to be over there with them when they die.”
But Faviola Rangel, a 12-year-old, said she felt safer at school than at her grandmother’s house, where she moved when her family’s Pacoima apartment was destroyed by the quake.
“Just staying in the house I get scared,” Faviola said. “I wanted to come to school.”
Times staff writer Eric Shepard and special correspondent Susan Byrnes contributed to this story.
As of late Monday, the Los Angeles Unified School District said 76 schools--most in the West San Fernando Valley--will not reopen today; parts of some of these campuses may be cleared for reopening later this week, and others may remain closed much longer. Closures include any magnet schools on the same campus. District officials will update the school closure list daily. Parents should call their child’s school for more information.
* Public information lines: (213) 625-4000 (English); (213) 625-4643 (Spanish)
* Elementary schools: (818) 997-2550
* Junior high schools: (818) 904-2036
* High schools: (213) 742-7501
THE CLOSED SCHOOLS
* Andasol Avenue Elem., Northridge
* Beckford Avenue Elem., Northridge
* Blythe Street Elem., Reseda
* Burton Street Elem., Panorama City
* Calabash Street Elem., Woodland Hills
* Calahan Street Elem., Northridge
* Canoga Park Elem. and Children’s Center
* Canoga Park High
* Cantara Street Elem., Reseda
* Carpenter Avenue Elem., Studio City
* Castlebay Lane Elem., Northridge
* Chatsworth Park Elem., Chatsworth
* Chatsworth High, Stony Point Continuation School
* Cleveland High, Magnet School and Aliso Continuation School, Reseda
* Cohasset Street Elem., Van Nuys
* Danube Avenue Elem., Granada Hills
* Darby Avenue Elem., Northridge
* Dixie Canyon Avenue Elem., Sherman Oaks
* El Camino Real High, Adult School and Leonis Continuation School, Woodland Hills
* El Oro Way Elem., Granada Hills
* Encino Elem.
* Ft. McArthur Children’s Center, San Pedro
* Frost Middle School, Granada Hills
* Fullbright Avenue Elem., Canoga Park
* Germain Street Elem., Chatsworth
* Gledhill Street Elem., Sepulveda
* Granada Elem., Granada Hills
* Granada Hills High and Magnet School
* Hale Middle School, Woodland Hills
* Hamlin Street Elem., Canoga Park
* Hart Street Elem., Canoga Park
* Haskell Elem., Granada Hills
* Patrick Henry Middle School, Granada Hills
* Oliver W. Holmes Middle School, Northridge
* Kennedy High, Addams Continuation School and Adult School, Granada Hills
* Kester Avenue Elem. and Magnet School, Van Nuys
* Knollwood Elem., Granada Hills
* Lanai Road Elem., Encino
* Lassen Elem., Sepulveda
* Lawrence Middle School, Chatsworth
* Lemay Street Elem., Van Nuys
* Lorne Street Elem., Northridge
* Lull Special Education Center, Encino
* Marvin Avenue Elem. and Children’s Center, L.A.
* Mayall Street Elem., Sepulveda
* Melvin Avenue Elem., Reseda
* Miller Special Education School, Reseda
* Morningside Elem., San Fernando
* Napa Street Elem., Northridge
* Northridge Middle School
* North Valley Occupational Center, Mission Hills
* Parkman Middle School, Woodland Hills
* Parthenia Street Elem., Sepulveda
* Portola Middle and Magnet Schools, Tarzana
* Reseda Elem.
* Rinaldi Adult School
* Roscomare Road Elem., L.A.
* San Fernando Elem. and Children’s Center
* San Fernando Middle School
* Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, Reseda
* Shirley Avenue Elem., Reseda
* Stagg Street Elem., Van Nuys
* Superior Street Elem., Chatsworth
* Sutter Middle School, Canoga Park
* Tarzana Elem.
* Topeka Drive Elem., Northridge
* Tulsa Street Elem., Granda Hills
* Valley Alternative, Van Nuys
* Vanalden Avenue Elem. and Children’s Center, Reseda
* Van Gogh Street Elem., Granada Hills
* Victory Boulevard Elem., North Hollywood
* Vintage Street Fundamental Magnet Elem., Sepulveda
* West Valley Children’s Center
* West Valley Occupational Center, Woodland Hills
* West Valley Special Ed Center, Van Nuys
* Winnetka Avenue Elem., Canoga Park
Compiled by Times researchers TRACY THOMAS and NONA YATES
Source: Los Angeles Unified School District