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LAUSD returns to as close to normal as possible after one-day scare

Mike Szymanski | December 16, 2015

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Michelle King at press conference


After a long tense day that resulted in all LA Unified schools being closed due to a bomb and weapons threat, normal routines came back to schools across the district this morning.

“Things have gone extraordinarily smoothly,” board President Steve Zimmer told LA School Report. “It’s as close to normal as possible. Even so, we remain in a very protective and a alert stance.”

Some people saw more school police in uniform and a larger Los Angeles police presence around school neighborhoods. Parents were inundated with robo-calls and emails (at least three calls and two emails at some households), explaining the situation and assuring that it is safe for students to return to school.

Zimmer said the district had “absolutely increased the presence of law enforcement and district support personnel.”

At 7:30 last night, the district provided every principal a packet of materials to distribute to teachers this morning to help them talk about the school closure and allay any remaining fears. The district posted information in Spanish and English on their website for parents, too.

“Crisis counselors are available if students want to talk about the incident,” chief deputy superintendent Michelle King said in a statement from the district. “Teachers have been provided lesson plans on how to help youngsters who may feel a little anxious or afraid.”

King notably stepped up front at the final press conference yesterday afternoon, while outgoing superintendent Ramon Cortines stood in the background, even after taking the lead at press conferences earlier in the day. King, who may be a contender for the now-vacant superintendent job, took an angry question from a broadcast reporter who is also a mother, expressing concerns that families were not notified fast enough of yesterday’s closures.

“We get the information off the emergency cards that parents fill out at the beginning of the year,” King explained. She pointed out that this is a warning call that parents and guardians should update their school information.

A special letter from Cortines went out to principals at middle schools where some the anxiety may linger more with students. ”The role of the principal during this time of crisis is crucial and adult self-care is often left out until the aftermath,” he wrote. “Please be aware of all adult emotions and provide spaces and places for teachers and other adults to discuss the events in a safe and caring environment. As teachers, parents, and students return to school, maintaining a routine for students during these events is the best way to ensure students feel a sense of safety and normalcy.”

King pointed out that most high schools are taking final exams because their semester ends Friday, with a three-week winter break to follow. Because yesterday happened to be a minimum-day for most schools where students leave early, less instruction time was missed, leaving administrators and teachers to try making up the work over the rest of the week.

The teachers are also given a script to read to make sure students feel safe and that every school site is safe. Cortines wrote, “The closing of schools may trigger increased anxiety about terrorist attacks, such as those that occurred in Paris and San Bernardino, as well as the violence in their own communities.”

Zimmer said that in the aftermath of yesterday, he has been inundated with calls from parents, thanking him for the district’s cautionary response. While acknowledging that some have questioned whether the district overreacted, he said, “Over and over they are thanking us for what we did. At a certain level, we cal all second guess closing the schools. At a parents level, it was like, ‘Of course. We never expected you to do anything else.’ ”

  • Adds Zimmer comments

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