LOS ANGELES COUNTY — The Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger and coauthored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to ask the State of California to provide additional support for students impacted by distance learning, with special consideration for those who are most vulnerable, including those who have special needs, are low-income, English learners, experiencing homelessness and foster youth.
The Supervisors are pursuing consistent and equitable educational requirements; access to computer equipment, tablets and Wi-Fi; community resource centers for children and youth who need a safe place to learn; establishing appropriate plans for students whose distance learning can be compromised; and resources to keep childcare centers operating.
“The closure of schools in L.A. County has severely impacted families and students and has further exacerbated the digital divide in our communities,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “The communities experiencing increases in COVID-19 cases and unemployment due to extended closures are the same communities that are negatively impacted by distance learning.”
According to Barger, by implementing programs at local parks and libraries and ensuring the state government addresses these issues, L.A. County can help bridge the digital divide. She emphasized extra support for students with special needs, those who need access to mental health care and English language learners.
“We must help children return to a sense of normalcy and equip them with the tools they need to learn and socialize even under the constraints of the pandemic,” Supervisor Barger said.
The motion also directs the Chief Executive Officer to partner with the Office for the Advancement of Early Care and Education, the Superintendent of Schools of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, the Director of Mental Health and youth-focused community-based organizations. These partners will engage parents about available resources, including programs that allow students to participate in distance learning from safe locations other than their homes and access mental health services to support youth who are feeling the impacts of isolation and depression. In addition, the motion asks for consideration of alternatives to site-based learning to bring support into the home, such as in-home childcare, tutoring, associate teaching and expanded home visiting.
“We know that learning is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, so we must be attentive to the gaps in resources to serve the social, emotional, and intellectual needs of every child,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This motion seeks to address the barriers families and children face in this critical moment. We are directing the County Chief Information Officer and various County departments to identify how to best establish expanded access to cellular and Wi-Fi in County unincorporated property to help minimize the digital divide that disproportionately affects communities of color.”