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The deadline to sign up for LAUSD online school is Friday. Here’s what you need to know

A masked student sitting at a desk with a laptop in a classroom raises his hand.
Erick Cordoba of Hawthorne High School raises his hand in Spanish class in July. Schools in Southern California are returning to in-person instruction, but online options are available.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Unified School District is preparing to fully reopen campuses for in-person classes on Aug. 16. For parents who do not want to send their child back to campus, an online option is available through the district’s independent study program.

Students will be automatically enrolled for in-person class at their school unless they register for independent study by Friday, Aug. 6.

Online schooling in LAUSD this school year will be different from the remote learning that began when campuses shut down in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s offered for 2020-21 is an online, independent study program run by the district and called the City of Angels School.

Students choosing the City of Angels program will temporarily withdraw from their current school and will have different classmates and teachers. Independent-study students will have the option of returning to their original school, but the academic work at City of Angels will not necessarily be in sync with what these students would have learned in their neighborhood school or other previous program.

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The online program is available for transitional kindergarten through 12th grade.

Early this week, LAUSD officials said about 1% of students are signed up for online independent study. Here’s what parents who want to put their children in independent study need to know.

The variant’s ability to spread among the vaccinated is worrisome, experts said, but it shouldn’t preclude kids from heading back to school.

How to enroll

Start by logging into the parent portal on the LAUSD website. Then go to the “my students” section and click on the “online program” link. You can also call the L.A. Unified Family Hotline at (213) 443-1300. There’s more information on independent study on the City of Angels website.

Part of enrolling includes signing a written agreement. Sonya Smith, director of student support services for the L.A. County Office of Education, said that for the 2021-22 school year, independent study requires a written master agreement signed by the student; parent, guardian, or caregiver; and the supervising teacher.

The agreement is part of Assembly Bill 130 that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law July 9, 2020. The law mandates that school districts offer independent study for students “whose health could be put at risk by in-person instruction.” Within the written agreement, school districts have to define what level of educational progress a student has to meet in order to remain in the program.

Smith noted students with disabilities can’t participate in independent studies unless their individualized education plan allows for that. In LAUSD, parents can request a meeting if they have questions about the program or eligibility before placement.

Dual-language programs are not available through City of Angels.

Risk factors are difficult to evaluate in school settings, but rising numbers are likely to raise concerns for some.

How does independent study work?

Elementary students (transitional kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade) will receive three hours of live instruction Monday through Friday. The rest of the day is for independent work.

Middle and high school students will have a little more than four hours a day under a teacher’s supervision. At least two hours must be live instruction. Students will work independently when not learning with a teacher.

Students who are enrolled in independent study will not be able to participate in student programs at their local campus, with the exception of athletics if California Interscholastic Federation rules allow it for it. Contact the school to discuss eligibility.

Students in independent study have the same access to rigorous, quality instruction that their in-person peers will receive, Smith said. Students, parents, supervising teachers and staffers are expected to ensure the student is progressing not only academically, but also socially.

Smith said that if a student in the virtual classroom is not making adequate progress, then the supervising teacher will convene an evaluation conference with the student, parent, and supporting staff to determine whether the student must return to in-person instruction.

If a family realizes that online learning isn’t working for them, LAUSD will allow students to switch back to their neighborhood school at any time. Also, parents can choose to remove their child from a campus and enroll in independent learning. But they advise that the decision be made sparingly, as it will be disruptive.

In August, K-12 students will return to school. For many districts, summer school has provided a preview of classroom life with mask mandates.

Districts other than LAUSD

Smith encourages parents and guardians to check their school district’s website for details about online offerings.

She also suggests requesting a conference with your district before enrolling in independent study to ask questions. School districts are obligated to honor that request.

Large Southern California districts are handling things differently.

San Bernardino City Unified School District kicked off its 2021-22 school year this week, with 5% of its students in a virtual program. That amounts to more than 2,000 students in the district’s Virtual Learning Academy, which offers three independent study options: a teacher-led virtual program for TK through eighth grade; online learning for high school students; and independent study for fourth grade through high school.

Long Beach Unified School District students are scheduled to start the school year Aug. 31. Officials there said the district will offer an independent study option, but details aren’t available yet.

Call or visit your school district website to find out more about your options.


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