With virtual instruction well under way in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the superintendent said today average daily student attendance is at 88.4%, compared to 91.8% last year, with kindergarten classes seeing a major decline.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner also said about 4% of all students and their families have yet to make any connection with their school community since remote learning began Aug. 18, highlighting what he called “gaps” that remain in “some student groups which have historically been hard to serve.”

Overall enrollment during the pandemic is down at about the same level as prior years, but Beutner noted a significant decline in enrollment at the kindergarten level, especially in certain communities.

“The biggest drops in kindergarten enrollment are generally in neighborhoods with the lowest household incomes,” Beutner said. “We suspect some of this is because families may lack the ability to provide full-time support at home for online learning, which is necessary for very young learners.”

The superintendent said the attendance rates are a reminder that the crisis is having a disproportionate impact on low-income families. He emphasized that the district continues to work with families to ensure all students can participate with loaned computers and internet access, if needed.

“We expect the job impacts and housing insecurity due to COVID-19 to cause additional volatility in enrollment and attendance figures for some time to come,” he said.

There’s still no word on when schools might reopen, but Beutner said health conditions in Los Angeles remain “far from the levels at which it would be appropriate to consider a return to school campuses.”

District officials are working to put in place the foundation for an eventual return, which will include COVID-19 testing for students and staff and family members who may have been exposed to the virus, as well as a mobile application students can use to register and self-screen for symptoms.

Meanwhile, students who are engaged in distance-learning have regular schedules with daily, live instruction at all grade levels and regular assessments of student progress to help teachers provide feedback to students and their families, the superintendent said. Small group instruction and one-on-one help is being provided to students who need it most.