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L.A. County could use parks, libraries as learning sites amid school closures

Parkgoers sit at a social distance in Vista Hermosa Natural Park on Tuesday.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County is considering using parks and libraries as alternative learning sites for students as most schools remain shuttered amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to support a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn to allow children to use spaces at libraries and parks in unincorporated areas while school campuses are closed. The vote comes less than two weeks after L.A. Unified School District announced that in-person classes would not resume in August as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the county and across California.

“In the middle of this worsening pandemic, distance learning is our safest option right now, but this is untenable for parents who can’t work from home and some of our most vulnerable families,” Hahn said in a statement, adding that the county hopes to imitate its parks’ summer camp model during the fall.

Frantic parents with resources are rushing to hire tutors and form learning pods to bring distance learning to their homes and backyards amid coronavirus school closures.

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On Wednesday, California recorded 12,063 new coronavirus cases and 157 deaths — breaking records for both, according to the L.A. Times coronavirus tracker.

“As much as we want to be back at schools and have students back at schools — [we] can’t do it until it’s safe and appropriate,” Supt. Austin Beutner told The Times earlier this month. Other school districts, including San Diego Unified and the San Bernardino City Unified School District, announced this month that they will not be opening their doors to students this fall, citing spikes in COVID-19 cases.

The proposal asks the Department of Parks and Recreation to report back to the Board of Supervisors within 30 days with a plan to provide staffing, supervision and programming to children in unincorporated areas of the county, according to a release.

Norma Garcia, parks director, said in a statement that the department is “happy to look into” providing alternate learning locations for students.

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“I know that this won’t be an easy fix,” Hahn said. “This has never been done before. But we are in unprecedented times, and we need to meet them with unprecedented and creative solutions for our residents.”


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