UCLA Community Schools Step Up to Help in COVID-19 Crisis

Research and social justice-driven schools in South LA and Koreatown serve thousands of meals to students and their families.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the closure of schools across Los Angeles and the nation, the UCLA Community Schools at the RFK campus in Koreatown and at Mann UCLA in South LA have stepped up to serve as LAUSD “Grab and Go” Centers providing nutritious meals to students and families. Each morning, staff, faculty and a few volunteers join in the effort to provide thousands of meals. 

UCLA Distinguished Professor of Education Pedro A. Noguera visited the UCLA Community School and commended the staff, faculty and volunteers taking part in the effort to ensure that student who might otherwise go without, get nutritious meals to eat while schools are closed. 

“Volunteering to distributing food to children and families is the most rewarding thing I have done since the Coronavirus quarantine went into effect,” Noguera said.  “Many of the volunteers were doing this on what should have been their spring break. We were careful to practice social distancing, but we were happy to be there.  Our public schools are a vital part of the social safety net in this country, but that safety net is only as strong as the people who hold it in place.”  

As of March 24, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region, and Los Angles County Office of Emergency Management have teamed up to provide more than one million meals to students and families at 64 Grab and Go sites across the Los Angeles school district. 

Both UCLA community schools are also ramping up efforts to make sure students are ready and able to participate effectively in distance learning while schools are closed. Next week, the schools will serve as sites for the distribution of technology devices to students to ensure they can take part in lessons when instruction resumes April 6.  Faculty and staff are also taking part in planning and professional development for the delivery of online instruction. For example, teachers and staff at the UCLA Mann Community School this week took part in school wide professional development via zoom to prepare for instruction.  

“Our leadership team is doing an amazing job of organizing and supporting our teachers, students and their families,” Christine Shen, Director of the UCLA Community Schools Initiative said.  “And our UCLA Teacher Education Program teachers are supporting our teacher colleagues on becoming more familiar with Zoom, Schoology and other challenges with online learning. 

“Being part of the community schools initiative has really helped our teachers to respond to this crisis.  They have a connection to these kids and care about their communities.  They are making a difference.“

Above: UCLA volunteers – including Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education (at center); Leyda Garcia, principal, UCLA Community School (far right); and Queena Kim, assistant principal, UCLA Community School (second from right), help to serve meals to their students and families at the RFK Community School’s LAUSD “Grab and Go” site.

Courtesy of Pedro Noguera