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L.A. area kids get ready to return to the classroom

It’s back-to-school week for thousands of kids in Southern California.

Students from Los Angeles and Orange counties will be returning to the classroom on campus, many returning to normal in-person instruction for the first time in years.

The Los Angeles Unified School District welcomes kids back into the classroom on Monday, but on Sunday morning, thousands of students and parents were out and about to savor that last fleeting moment of summer vacation.

Classes have already started in several districts, including Riverside Unified School District and the Anaheim Elementary School District.

This year, school districts will be focusing on school safety and mental health, which parents have identified as the biggest issues facing their children.

While there is a lot of excitement for the new school year, with the third year of the coronavirus pandemic, there are ongoing issues and many parents are worried about the impact that the pandemic has had on some students’ education, especially in the hard-hit Latino and Black L.A. communities

Parents have also spoken out over the relaxed COVID safety measures at LAUSD, including making masking optional and no longer requiring weekly testing.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the District is following the “evolving science,” which is why it’s changed its approach compared to last year. According to research from Harvard University, which looked at schools in 49 states, the pandemic created big learning gaps and academic loss was worst in school districts that were shut down for a prolonged time.

Students in communities that were closed for a year or more were less likely to make up for the lost education, even with heavy daily tutoring.

The United States Surgeon General issued a public health advisory about mental health challenges for young people, saying about one in four students suffered from serious depression and anxiety, in part due to all of the screen time, isolation at home and remote learning.

Locally, school districts have been trying to hire mental health experts, but face a shortage of qualified candidates and are offering some telehealth services online and over the phone. Teachers were also trained on how to include social and emotional learning along with their regular lessons.

Assemblymember Tina McKinnor helped host a back-to-school drive-thru resource fair in the Imperial Crenshaw area on Saturday. Families were given backpacks and school supplies in hopes of helping kids start the school year on the right foot.

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