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It's Back to School PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 16 August 2012 06:45

LAUSD Campuses Open Classes Earlier Than Usual

Students attending public school will have to brave the high temperatures, as 640,000 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students returned to classes Tuesday, Aug. 14, three weeks earlier than usual and in the midst of a heat wave that worries San Fernando Valley parents.

"I like it and I don't like it," said Veronica Parra, whose twin fourth grade daughters attend Haskell Elementary School in Granada Hills. "I don't like it because the LAUSD is not equipped for air conditioning and that worries me because it's so hot, especially with elementary school. It's harder (for the children) with the heat.

I like it because (the school year) is going to be unified across all the schools."

LAUSD decided to move its school calendar three weeks ahead of its usual schedule to allow for the completion of the first semester before the winter break. District officials say this has shown to have a positive impact on final examinations and grades.

Many high schools in the Valley have already adopted this early start and report that it's popular with parents and students.

Noe Ramirez agrees.

"Maybe it's better they're here because if they're at home, they're just watching TV. I think that if it's because they're going to learn more, it's fine," Ramirez said.

But many parents expressed concern about the heat wave that has kept the Valley sizzling for more than a week. "I told him not to be playing outside," said Gabriela Garcia, who has a student in the fifth grade.

"It's better this way. When they're out too long, they tend to forget what they've learned," said Laura Valles, with a student in first grade. "But the heat worries me. That's why I made sure he had a lot of water."

In response to a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health heat alert, LAUSD announced safety precautions were being taken at all campuses.

This includes frequent water breaks; limitations on physical activity and making sure doors and windows are closed in airconditioned rooms.

Outdoor physical activity - which includes recess, physical education, recreation and competitive sports - may be limited to the cooler morning hours and include an increase in the number of rest periods.

For competitive sports, exercise must be limited or modified during practice periods.

Students and staff also may be moved to the cooler areas of the campus; be prohibited from going outside for prolonged periods of time; eat lunch inside, such as in multi-purpose rooms; athletic practices may be cancelled; and physical education classes may be conducted indoors.

At the most extreme level, school may be dismissed or the hours modified.

Lorie Thompson, principal of Haskell Elementary, said she was taking all of these precautions.

"We're trying to keep them indoors and minimize their activities outside as much as we can," she said. "And we're giving them a lot of water breaks."

Pedestrian Safety

Haskell Elementary was the site of a press conference Tuesday morning to stress driving and pedestrian safety now that schools are back in session.

"Be on time and prepare the day before," said James Cansler, assistant Commanding Officer for LAPD's Operations Valley Bureau.

"The biggest problem we have is drivers going too fast and not paying attention to stops," Cansler said, adding that by parents leaving their home earlier and preparing ahead, this minimizes the need for speed the next day.

Cansler also advised against double parking when dropping kids off at school and doing Uturns, which can lead to accidents.

Nationwide, from 1998 to 2008, 149 school-age pedestrians (younger than 19) died in school transportation-related crashes. More than two-thirds of the victims (69 percent) were killed by school buses, seven percent by vehicles functioning as school buses, and 24 percent by other vehicles involved in the crashes.

If the children are riding bikes to school, Cansler advised wearing a helmet and bright clothing, and to get off and walk the bikes through intersections. He also said children should always use the sidewalk and listen to crossing guards' directions.

Respect Crossing Guards

Authorities also emphasized drivers should respect the guards who help parents and students cross streets near schools.

To hone their point, authorities conducted a pedestrian sting operation near Haskell Elementary on Tuesday. In 45 minutes, plainclothes officers issued 22 citations to drivers at a nearby intersection, mostly for failing to yield to pedestrians or going too fast.

There are 424 crossing guards in the City of Los Angeles, including 110 in the Valley. Last year three crossing guards were hit by cars, sustaining minor injuries.

"The speed limit around schools is 25 mph, but even that's too fast," said California Highway Patrol Capt. Kevin Gordon. "Watch for kids, watch for school bus dropoffs, and pay attention to your surroundings."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 06:34